Crystal Quilters Block of the Month: Sew Many Stars! Finishing Instructions

We made it to the end of the sew along! We’ve made it to the end of 2020! When I volunteered to take on this task at the beginning of the year, I didn’t imagine in my wildest dreams how this would end up going this year. But I’m glad we at least had this little block of the month to keep us connected. Thanks for going on this journey with me, and thanks for the little texts and Facebook messages with pictures of your blocks! I love seeing them!

So here it is, the finishing instructions for this quilt:

I hope your quilts come together with ease and I look forward to seeing them in actual real life AT SOME POINT when all this craziness has passed us. Pat yourself on the back for finishing this up! Good job!

As always, if you’re posting your block to Instagram, please make sure to tag it with the #crystalquiltersbom (If you’re a member of the guild) and #sewmanystarsquilt hashtags so we can find your blocks!

Happy sewing! (And thank you!)

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The 12 Week Year: Figuring out your Life Vision

I read The 12 Week Year during lockdown this year, and my life has dramatically changed as a result. I’ve read handfuls of goal-setting and time-management books over the years, and found much to like about them, but I cannot shut up about The 12 Week Year. Anyone who I can get to listen to me will hear about this book because, finally, I now know what I want out of life and how to create a plan to get it.

I’ve seen this book around for a few years, but the title, The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months, led me to believe it was more of a business-y/efficiency/time management manual, and I’m a mother of four–I have figured out how to eke as much as I can out of my days already, thankyouverymuch. Pass.

But then I saw a random review of it online and the reviewer said it helped them define what they wanted out of life and helped them figure out a plan to actually work on the things that would get them there. And that “helped them define what they wanted out of life” line…I wanted that. So I borrowed it via e-loan from my library (because quarantine!) and…it just spoke to me, especially chapters 3 (The Emotional Connection) and 13 (Establish Your Vision).

I’ve read The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, and I know about “beginning with the end in mind” and prioritizing the important tasks and mission statements. I’ve also read Getting Things Done and written down my random “5 Years from Now” and “Someday” goals/ideas.

But never had I ever sat down and brainstormed about what I want out of life or what a great life would look like for me. Which is such a simple exercise that I feel like an absolute moron for not ever making the connection to do it on my own. What would a great life look like to me? If I could have everything I was interested in, and everything went right and I did have it, what would that look like?

I had plenty of ideas of what other people had told me a great life entailed; some things I thought were good and some things I would never be interested in in a million years, but I didn’t know what my personal core-of-my-heart desires were, and if you don’t know what you actually want out of life, it’s pretty stinking hard to make a plan to live your best life…because you have no idea what that is.

I just lent my copy of The 12 Week Year to a friend, promising her that it will totally help her figure out her life vision. Only problem is, as I was reading through it while walking over to her house, I realized that the book doesn’t actually spell out the whole “figure out your life vision” exercise…and that maybe I had actually put a lot more effort into that part because I wanted to desperately figure it out for once and for all, so I figured I’d write a post to explain my process before my friends think I’m talking crazy about how this book is going to help you figure out your life direction and then not being to figure out how I came to that conclusion.

So, here it is, my Thanksgiving gift to you:

How To Figure Out What YOU Want Out of Life

Materials Needed:
*A ruled notebook
*A writing utensil
*~3 hours of uninterrupted time
*Optional: A copy of The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington (not really needed for this exercise, but it will be absolutely amazing in helping you start working on the things you figure out with this exercise)

1: Get comfy in a place where you won’t be interrupted. Open your notebook and write “ASPIRATIONAL VISION (Long-Term)” across the top of the first page. Below that, write “The Life You Deeply Desire”.

Now, write down the following seven categories, with a few blank lines in between them for listing ideas:

Spiritual
Spouse (or Relationship or whatever works for you)
Family
Community
Physical
Personal
Business

These are the seven areas of “life balance” listed in the book. (Depending on which version you’re reading, they may have different names. I noticed that they were a little different between my e-loan from the library vs. my purchased hard copy.)

Take a few minutes to think about what a great life would look like in each of these categories in ten, twenty, fifty years. What would you like to be able to say those areas included in your life? What would you like them to look like?

Write down those thoughts next to the category they apply to. Don’t limit yourself here, it’s just brainstorming your pie-in-the-sky happy thoughts. No one is ever going to see this, so be free with your dreams.

2: On the next page, write:
THREE YEAR VISION
A: What needs to happen in the next three years to move towards long-term vision?
B: What would a GREAT personal and professional life look like, three years from now?

Now you’ll write an “area of life balance” category (spiritual, spouse, family, community, physical, personal, or business) and then under that heading write “A:” and then list everything you can think of that needs to happen in the next three years to move towards the long-term vision you wrote down on the first page of your notebook for that category. (You’ll be flipping back to that page A LOT throughout this exercise!)

When you finish listing all those things, start a new line with “B:” and write down what a GREAT life in that particular category would look like, three years from now.

For example, on my first page/ASPIRATIONAL VISION, under the category of “Physical,” I wrote:
Physical: Healthy weight, would love to be able to run, as pain-free as possible, no meds.

A couple of pages later, for the Physical category, I wrote:
A: Lose weight, keep doing physical therapy, strengthen full-body, build up walking plan to running plan, control eating
B: Wake up and work out hard without fear of injury, can run. Move fluidly, no pain. Eat healthy diet–lean meats, lots of produce. Don’t crave junk. Food is healthy and good–don’t feel deprived. Kids are healthy. Ankles don’t swell and bones in feet don’t ache. Back doesn’t ache, and I can move easily.

A special note for the “personal” category: Because there were so many, unrelated topics in my aspirational vision for my personal life (read: hobbies and interests), I had to organize that section differently when I came to it. Let’s say you list, among other things, the three ideas of “can speak other languages,” “can play musical instruments,” and “travel.” I organized this category like this:

6. PERSONAL
A. What needs to happen in the next three years?

I. Choose & learn languages
a. Spanish
b. Mandarin (or Cantonese?)

II. Musical Instruments
a. Piano: Keep practicing & progressing
b. Bagpipes: Find a teacher, rent a set, start learning
c. Other instruments?

III. Travel
a. Brainstorm/Research
b. Save $$$
c. Learn appropriate languages
d. Photography equipment/skills

B. What would a great life look like in this category, three years from now?

I. Languages
a. Can hold basic conversations in Spanish and Mandarin(?)
b. Can read easy books in target languages

II. Music
a. Piano: Can sight-play hymns
b. Bagpipes: Be a member of a bagpipe group and perform with them
c. Other: Violin? Play prelude @ church

III. Travel
a. Know of places I want to see/excited about specific areas/attractions
b. Savings for trips building up/have an amount that gets automatically deposited
c. Progressing in languages
d. Offered opportunities to travel because I’m good at what I do at work
e. Have the photography equipment to take good pictures, and I’ve practiced enough to do a really great job at it

(No, I don’t actually want to learn to play the bagpipes; I just thought it’d be a great way to show how to brainstorm about something out of your comfort/knowledge zone.)

And…that’s it. When you’re done with this exercise, you’ll definitely be prepared to follow the rest of the 12 Week Year plan and start moving forward wisely towards goals that actually mean something to you. The book tells you how to set it all up and track it, so there’s no point to me reiterating it here.

Writing down and figuring out your life vision is the keystone of this goal-setting system. I remember when I was in the middle of my first 12 Week cycle, and in the depths of despair over my (seemingly) sluggish progress towards my goals, and wondering if I should just give up or if any of it even mattered, and I happened to read through whatever chapter said that part of my planning/strategic time each week should include re-reading my life vision and checking and seeing if I was still emotionally connected with it.

So I did. And I cried. Because, YES, I wanted to be able to say that my life consisted of those things! It gave me the psychological boost to keep showing up and performing the actions I knew I needed to do to move towards those goals. I was even able to condense my vision down into two sentences after that, and I repeat those two sentences to myself all the time because they make me excited to keep doing the hard work that will eventually get me to those goals.

And the beauty of having written this all down in a notebook? You can use the remaining pages for figuring out what goals you’re going to work on in future 12 Week cycles, keep track of your tactics, and all that other good stuff. All my brainstormings, to-do-lists…in that one notebook. Easy peasy.

I hope this clears up any confusion anyone may have had about what I’ve been talking about!

(If there’s interest, I can also write a post about how I choose what my next goals are going to be, and how I plan my week so I can actually find time to work on my goals.)

Crystal Quilters Block of the Month: Sew Many Stars! Block 9: Martha Washington Star

THE LAST BLOCK! WE MADE IT!

When I volunteered to do this Block of the Month, I don’t even think I’d heard of COVID-19, and we got a late start on it because of quarantine and not knowing what the heck was going on. But here we are, nearing the end of a very long year, and I’m so glad to have been able to offer this little spark of light to you throughout it. Hopefully your quilts are looking good, and I hope that the time when we can finally gather in-person to see each others’ blocks arrives sooner than later.

I left this block until to the end because I didn’t know how I was going to be able to “draw” it in the PDF. I gave up and just threw in some actual photos on the second page of the pattern. If the directions are a little unclear, this block has a lot of pattern explanations all over the internet…I did my best.

You can download the instructions for the Martha Washington Star block here:

Good job, everyone! Keep sewing and look for the bright side in these murky times!

Half Yard Jam Quilt

Fat Quarter Shop contacted me a while ago about sewing up one of their new patterns, the Half Yard Jam Quilt. Seeing that I’d like to redecorate my bedroom, and the quilt is queen-sized, I jumped at the opportunity.

It’s an easy pattern–simple seams and BIG blocks. I got it done really fast once I got through the headache of starching my fabrics.

The pattern uses eighteen half yard cuts and I decided to make mine out of two boxes of those beautiful Art Gallery Color Master collections that always get me dreaming whenever I scroll past them on Fat Quarter Shop’s website. I decided to use the Fresh Waters and Coraline collections.

I think this will be a GREAT pattern for wedding and gift quilts–fast, modern, and you can definitely showcase the personalities of recipients. And, obviously, it will work well for indulging one’s desire to redecorate without going overboard with an overly-complicated new quilt.

You can download the pattern here:  https://www.fatquartershop.com/half-yard-jam-free-pdf-quilt-pattern

And Fat Quarter Shop has a quilt kit available, that you can look at here:  https://www.fatquartershop.com/half-yard-jam-quilt-kit

And you can visit the Fat Quarter Shop’s blog to learn more about the quilt, too: https://blog.fatquartershop.com/shortcut-quilt-half-yard-jam

Thank you, Fat Quarter Shop, for inviting me to join you on this new pattern’s release! I really love this quilt and can’t wait to finish redecorating so I can start using it!

Crystal Quilters Block of the Month: Sew Many Stars! Block 8: Rail Fence Star

OK, let’s see if my blog is finally going to let me publish an actual post…it’s being weird this week, and coupled with how lousy I was feeling yesterday, I decided to just wait out the bug. A few hours late shouldn’t hurt anyone’s plans, I hope…

We are getting so close to the end, you all! How exciting!

You can download the pattern instructions here:

If you’re posting your block to Instagram, please make sure to tag it with the #crystalquiltersbom (If you’re a member of the guild) and #sewmanystarsquilt hashtags so we can find your blocks!

Happy sewing!

Crystal Quilters Block of the Month: Sew Many Stars! Block 7: Shoofly Star Block

We’re starting to get close to the end of our sew along! School has started, and hopefully that means a little extra time in your sewing rooms! Alright, this month’s block is the Shoofly Star Block:

You can download the pattern instructions here:

If you’re posting your block to Instagram, please make sure to tag it with the #crystalquiltersbom (If you’re a member of the guild) and #sewmanystarsquilt hashtags so we can find your blocks!

Happy sewing!

Crystal Quilters Block of the Month: Sew Many Stars! Block 6: Friendship Star (in a Star)

CQ BOM Main

Welcome back for the sixth block of our sew along! [insert confetti here]

This month’s block is pretty easy, which I find I need during the summer months because there’s not a lot of time for indoor sewing when the kiddos are quarantined at home with no distance learning to keep them entertained. (Oh my word, this year…)

Friendship Star within a Star:

Friendship Star block

PLEASE NOTE: If you’re following the original pattern’s color choices, the star points have been red up until now, but as of this block they are now the lime green color.

Download the instructions here: Sew Many Stars BOM Pattern_Block 6 Friendship Star

If you’re posting your block to Instagram, please make sure to tag it with the #crystalquiltersbom (If you’re a member of the guild) and #sewmanystarsquilt hashtags so we can find your blocks!

Happy sewing!

Nature Trail Quilt for Blank Quilting

IMG_20200730_200528-01I was beyond thrilled to open my July box from Blank Quilting and find the Nature Trail fabric collection within!  It’s a woodsy collection filled with all the cute, scurrying things in the forest, along with colorful mushrooms and bugs.  I’d been stalking the potential choices for July, and had already decided that if I received Nature Trail I’d use it to make some sort of quilt that featured Maple Leaf blocks.  Because, hello, Canadian.

You know how you get about halfway through a project and start to second-guess yourself like crazy?  I did that with this quilt so hard, and now, as I look at it in its completed form, I have no idea why that even happened.  I absolutely love it, and it’s going to look fantastic with my autumn decor, which is super heavy on aqua and teal.  (Well, let’s be honest, almost everything in my house is heavy on aqua and teal.  Why would autumn be an exception?)

IMG_20200730_200545-01-01The collection is designed by Ingrid Slyder of Nutshell Designs and it’s a lovely mix of forest things.  The scraps are dear to me and will be used very carefully because I love them so. There’s also two panels that come with this collection, and I have an idea stewing in my mind for one of them, and a general idea with no specifics for the other.  Maybe I can get to those after I get through with mask-sewing.  Because, hello, masks.  *grumble, grumble*

Thank you again to Blank Quilting Corporation for this truly enjoyable opportunity to make beautiful things from fun collections.

IMG_20200730_200532-01-01

A quick internet search shows that you can pre-order this fabric from Bug Fabrics here in Washington State (who I’ve ordered from in the past and they’re quick with shipping!), and it looks like Eclectic Maker in the UK will also carry the collection at some point.

On Sewing Face Masks

Oh my goodness, I will never forget this year and a lot of those memories will revolve around all the face mask sewing I’ve done…and have yet to do.  It occurred to me last week, given that my kids are slated to return to school in the autumn for 2-4 days a week, depending on what school they attend, that I need to get my behind in gear in regards to mask production.  I’ve done some mathing and decided that I need to sew up fifty-two masks to comfortably outfit my family of six.

Here’s my reasoning:

#1: I’ve been out in public, wearing my mask like a good girl, and I’ve noticed that those things can get pretty damp, if not downright soggy, after 3-4 hours, so I’m going to send my kids to school with two masks each day and instruct them to swap them out at lunch.  Soggy masks are hot and make your skin itch, yuck. So, two masks for each day scheduled for on-campus learning per child = 4-8 masks per kid.

#2: I’m planning on doing a massive “mask washing” day once a week because I prize my sanity. You should wash your mask after each wearing, which means more masks because of the once-a-week laundry schedule. (Note to self: Set up a mask bucket to hold used masks in the laundry room.)

#3: We’ve had the problem of the kids forgetting to bring a mask with them when we go places and having to drive back home to get their masks, so I want a full family set of masks in each vehicle.

#4: I want a full family set of masks set up by the front door for all the reasons I can’t think of, and to serve as a replacement set for the inevitable losing of masks.

All in all, it works out to fifty-two masks, split amongst the six of us in their specific ways. Ughhhhhh.  But we had a fun time having a family fabric pull in the craft room:

img_20200703_151904

I broke down and bought the Creative Grids mask template, and it is awesome, I love it so much.  I was able to cut out all my family’s fabrics lickety-split and I’m almost done cutting out the linings when I find myself with free time.  If you’ve got lots of masks to make, it’s a good investment. (And an 18mm rotary cutter…)

Requests to sew masks for others are starting to trickle in, and I imagine that they’ll increase as we get closer to the start of school, but I’m saying no to them all until I get my family’s masks done.  I keep telling myself that that is the sane thing to do, but it still makes me sad to decline.  But it’d be terrible for me to say I’ll make them and then not get them done and those families having to scramble at the last minute to find masks for school.  I’m only one woman, and my first priority is my own family members.  It is my hope to make some extras to sell/give away later, but we’ll have to see how the rest of the summer shapes up for that aspiration.  Summer vacation with nowhere to go and most things closed is really testing my patience as a parent…sigh.  Some things you get through, and some things you just get dragged through until they’re done…

img_20200603_171833

…like sewing face masks.  😉  (Tula Pink Fairy Dust and rainbow top-stitching makes it a whole lot more fun to do, though.  Highly recommended.)

(And if I get these masks done and my school district decides to follow in San Diego’s footsteps and cancel anyway, I. will. not. be. O. K.)

Crystal Quilters Block of the Month: Sew Many Stars! Block 5: Checkerboard Star Block

CQ BOM Main

Happy July, everyone!  Yay, we made it to the point where we’ll only have a new block every month now!

This month’s block is another easy one, the Checkerboard Star:

Checkerboard Star Block EQ8

Download the instructions here: Sew Many Stars BOM Pattern_Block 5 Checkerboard Star

If you’re posting your block to Instagram, please make sure to tag it with the #crystalquiltersbom (If you’re a member of the guild) and #sewmanystarsquilt hashtags so we can find your blocks!

Happy sewing!