Back to My Bullet Journal

Bullet Journal spread, and why I've come back to my BuJo after a break.

I started my first Bullet Journal two years ago, and it (finally) made me into a notebook-keeper. Which is good, because, being a writer, I was starting to feel like I was doing something wrong in my inability to stick with a notebook habit.

Like with many systems, though, I suppose I got a little antsy, or bored, and when the Get to Work Book came out last year, I thought that maybe its more structured design would enable me to be more structured, while still being flexible enough to accommodate some simple bullet journaling. So I ordered one and fell in love with it.

But the GTWB is big. Quite big. It’s not as easy to tote around as a plain-old notebook. So after a while I started looking around some more, and discovered the Hibonichi planner. Which is small. And lovely. With surprisingly solid, very thin paper my fountain pen wouldn’t bleed through.

And though I enjoyed adapting to the Hibonichi, and it’s just so fabulous, after a disappointingly short time I found myself longing for the less rigid structure of a plain-old notebook Bullet Journal again. The grass is always greener, people. The grass is always greener.

I wanted to be able to take notes wherever I wanted, and have a day’s to-do list be any length it needed to be. I wanted a notebook without much structure that I could just tote around everywhere, to hold all the thoughts, tasks, and notes I need to capture.

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So I plucked a brand new notebook from my shelf (which I’d purchased right before the GTWB launched), and took a few minutes to set up a new Bullet Journal. And I felt like I had come home.

Now. In the years since I first came upon this delightfully simple system, bloggers have gone nuts showing off their own journals. I love me some journal eye candy. I love it so much.

But I do not produce an eye-candy journal. No, I most certainly do not. I do not colour-code. I do not adorn. I do not apply fancy hand-lettering to headings and titles. I don’t even try to keep my handwriting in check.

So I thought, though I’ve only been back at it for a week, that I’d show you a few spreads from my new BuJo (that’s what the kids call it these days).

Up at the top of the post is something new I’m trying out this time around: a Calendex; it’s like the love child of an index and a yearly calendar. As you can see, I haven’t actually used it yet. But I do have some things coming up later in the year, so I anticipate I’ll end up using it. Even if I don’t, it sure is pretty. And it’s the first time I took a ruler to my journal. Fancy.

Month & Day Spread

Bullet Journal month and day spread, and why I've come back to my BuJo after a break.

Above is the spread with my February task list on the left, and some daily to-do lists on the right. I didn’t keep a monthly task list in my last journal, but I think I’ll stick with it in this one. It felt pretty good to mark all the February tasks as completed at the end of the month, and it helped to see them all in one place.

For daily to-dos, well. This is why I fell in love with this system in the first place (this, and the whole index idea). It’s second nature to me to make lists this way now (not that it’s terribly different from any other kind of to-do list.) I’ve also added a daily tracker bit in the top-right corner of each day’s list. I’m using this to keep up with exercising and my daily art/craft making habit. In the past, I’ve kept track of my daily making on a dedicated spread, but I’ve come to accept that I don’t end up using dedicated spreads very much, but I do use a daily list. So this is my solution.

(Yes, I totally did end up scoring a pair of Paul Simon tickets on the 24th. Thirteenth Row, Centre. Holy smokes.)

Day & Notes Spread

Bullet Journal spread, and why I've come back to my BuJo after a break.

Heh. So, yeah, I turned the page and totally didn’t do the daily tracking thing on the next few days. I’m back to it now, though.

What I really want to highlight here is that my journal is not tidy. There’s loads of Bullet Journal pr0n around, you guys, and I gotta say it all strikes me as pretty fictional. You can keep a meticulous journal if you write things down after the fact, but there’s just no way that a work-in-progress can be perfect. It’s fiction. So here’s my reality.

On the left, you can see some messy notes. On the right, you can see some very rough notes I started making in pencil, because I knew I’d have to erase things and really mess around.

You might notice that these photos do not feature my beloved fountain pen. I discovered many years ago that two things allow me to keep my handwriting legible: small ruled lines or grids (I was a college-rule student all the way; no wide-ruled paper for me!), and a pen that allows for some friction. In fact, the only time I’m truly happy with my handwriting is when I write in pencil. The friction is ace.

Fountain pens are lovely to write with, and I certainly haven’t given mine up, but they’re just so smooth! Too smooth. I’ve taken to using a Micron pen in this journal, and it’s for sure the right choice.

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Do you keep a Bullet Journal? What are your favourite modules and hacks? And is your journal super neat and tidy, or more of a mess like mine?

 

Bullet Journal spreads, and why I've come back to my BuJo after a break.

Interviewed about My Nemesis

Ah, my nemesis. She continues to be fodder for conversation. I was interviewed about the experience for the Craft Industry Alliance Journal.

As a side note, I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m uncomfortable talking about my experience as being one of cyberbullying. I think it may be because I don’t consider my nemesis to have been a bully. I think of a bully as having some kind of power over the bullied person – be it strength, size, authority, popularity, reach. My nemesis had nothing over me; she wasn’t taking advantage of any kind of imbalance between us. She was just an asshole with a particular penchant for hurling colourful insults.

At any rate, read the article here.

How to Write a Crochet Pattern, Part 5: Putting It All Together

This is the 7th post in a 7 part series on how to write an outstanding crochet pattern. The rest of the series can be found here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7. There are five posts from me, and two fabulous guest posts from Kate Atherly. 

Crochet Pattern Pt 7 V1.0

So here we are. Time to wrap this series up!

We’ve covered why the information presented in the front matter of a pattern is so valuable; how and why it’s important to treat numbers and measurements accurately; how technical writing is different from other kinds of writing and why it’s important to focus on the clarity, brevity and accuracy of your pattern; and how images – photos, schematics and charts/diagrams – play an essential role, too. Kate Atherley expanded on the assumptions you make about your reader when you write a pattern, and on the importance of having your pattern professionally edited.

What Your Pattern Must Include

  1. The front matter:
    • Title and your name
    • Introduction
    • Materials list
    • Finished size (including metric and Imperial units of measurement)
    • Gauge
    • Notes (optional)
    • Stitch definitions (optional)
  2. The pattern:
    • It is clear, concise and consistent.
    • The finishing instructions provide all the information your intended crocheter needs.
    • It has been tech edited.
  3. The images:
    • Clear photos showing all technically relevant details
    • Stitch diagram (optional)
    • Schematic (optional)

Here’s my general workflow when I prepare a crochet pattern.

  1. Fiddle with yarn and hook. Take lots of notes.
  2. Settle on a pattern. Write it down as I go.
  3. Transfer pattern notes into instruction format, checking against what I’ve crocheted.
  4. Finish crocheting.
  5. Finish writing instructions.
  6. Add in all the front matter information, with the blocked gauge added last since I usually have the project soaking as I write this section out.
  7. Send the full pattern to the tech editor, and request a stitch diagram if needed.
  8. Photograph finished project.
  9. Receive pattern and stitch diagrams back from tech editor.
  10. Edit photos.
  11. Lay out pattern with images.
  12. Put pattern up for sale.

That’s a lot of steps. Even if you do them in a different order, you can’t really skip any of them.

For the Resa Shawlette, which I began crocheting in early November, the whole process took about six weeks. The actual crocheting took less than one week of that time.

Resa Shawlette crochet pattern, perfect for beginners!

And here she is, out in the world, ready for crocheters everywhere. You can purchase the pattern – which I designed to bring out the best in a high-contast variegated yarn, specifically for first-time shawl crocheters and for people who love a chill, relaxing project – on Ravelry or Craftsy*.

I’ll finish up with three things you should do to ensure you write an outstanding crochet pattern (or, really, any craft pattern at all):

  1. Keep your intended audience in mind. If you’re designing for beginners, make it something beginners can make. If you’re designing for people who love bold colour, use bold colour.
  2. Remember that while you know who your intended audience is, they do not know what you know. Be explicit when you write up your pattern. Be concise, consistent, and explicit.
  3. Pay a technical editor.

This has been the 7th (and final) post in a multi-part series on how to write a top-notch crochet pattern. The previous post was a second guest post from Kate Atherley, where she makes an excellent case for hiring a professional editor.

Thank you for sticking around for this whole series! I know I only covered things at a high level; if you have questions about anything at all, don’t hesitate to ask!

The prices are listed in different currencies on Ravelry (which allows me to use my home currency) and Craftsy (which only lists prices in U.S. dollars). Due to currency fluctuations, I estimated on the USD price in the Craftsy listing.

How to Write a Crochet Pattern, Part 4: The Images

This is the 5th post in a 7 part series on how to write an outstanding crochet pattern. The rest of the series can be found here: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7. There are five posts from me, and two fabulous guest posts from Kate Atherly. 

Crochet Pattern Pt 5 V1.0

There’s more to enabling a crocheter to replicate your design than nailing the numbers and the wording of your pattern. Imagery plays a big, important role, too. (Hint: I’m talking more than just pretty pictures here. But I’ll start with the pictures.)

Photos

Back in the first post of this series, I said that the introduction to your pattern is the second place people look for information that will help them decide whether they want to make your design. The first place is at the photos.

I can not stress enough how important it is to have at least two, if not many more, good photographs of the finished project as a part of your pattern. And I don’t mean this only in regards to selling it.

The photos of the finished design convey extremely important information to the crocheter, even long after they begin to follow the pattern. The photos let her see if her own work is coming out in the correct shape, and if her stitch pattern looks right. Think about how you follow patterns yourself. You don’t stop looking at the photos once you decide to buy the pattern, do you? I’ll bet money that you don’t. You look at the photos as you go, whenever you need to double check your work against the finished sample.

Here are the two most important photos you absolutely must include in your pattern:

  • The model shot. This is the image that’s the most important for marketing, because it’s the one that shows crocheters the design in all its glory. (Ok, it doesn’t have to have a model in it.) It’s about a bit more than just showing off the design, though. Just like the introduction does more than just show off your poetical prose, this main image needs to also convey what the project is and a bit about how it’s constructed, which means you have to show enough of the finished item that people looking at the image immediately know where to focus their attention. Just like technical writing needs to be clear and concise, without flowery language or fancy turns of phrase, the photos that accompany a pattern – even the main marketing image – have a very specific job to do. Here’s the main image of the Land & Sea baby blanket pattern, for example:

Land and Sea Baby Blanket

As you can see, the main pattern image doesn’t need to be fancy. It just needs to show exactly what the project is. The stuffed animal in this example indicates that this is a baby blanket, and enough of the blanket is shown that people looking at the image know that it’s a ripple-ish or feather-and-fan stitch pattern, that it involves striping, and that it has a very simple edging. (I designed this pattern a few years ago, but if I were designing its main image now, I’d also make a version that has the name of the pattern in text on the image, to encourage people to pin it on Pinterest. I will likely add such an image to the pages promoting this pattern very soon, actually. Better late than never.)

  • The second photograph you must include is one of the full, finished item, styled so that its shape is fully visible. If your pattern is for a slouch hat, make sure you include a photo that shows it modeled with appropriate slouch. If your pattern is for a sweater, make sure you include at least one photo that shows the crocheter very clearly how the sweater is supposed to fit – how snug or relaxed the fit is supposed to be, how long the sleeves are, where the bottom hem falls. (Yes, if you’re thinking that directing a photo shoot for a craft pattern is difficult, you’re right. Be patient, and study up. Caro Sheridan teaches a terrific class on exactly this.) If your pattern is for a shawl, include a photo that conveys the finished shape of the shawl – that means you’ll need a photo of it not being worn as usual, because a shawl being worn does not present its actual shape. For example, here’s a photo of the Resa Shawlette that indicates its finished shape:Resa Shawlette beginner crochet pattern.
    I could have used a photo I took of the shawl laid out on the blocking board, but I didn’t like how those turned out, and a photo taken in an actual place is always more interesting than one taken on the floor or some other flat surface. (Granted, I could have been more patient about setting up better lighting…)

Now, those are the two photos you absolutely must include with your pattern. There are others you really should try to include so your crocheter has the best information they need to succeed.

  • A detail shot of the stitch pattern if you’re using anything other than rows upon rows of basic stitches. Here’s one of the Resa Shawlette:Resa Shawlette: beginner v-stitch crochet pattern.
    Note that I took this detail photo while it was being modeled. That’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do; you don’t need to take detail shots on the floor or a blocking board (though you can; just make sure they’re also pleasing to the eye). This kind of close-up shot of the stitch pattern is more important when you’re using a more involved pattern, or if you’re using colourwork or a cable pattern. In the case of this particular shawlette, especially because I’ll be including of a stitch diagram, a stitch-pattern close-up wouldn’t actually be required. I’m going to include this shot in the pattern, though, because I’m aiming it at first-time shawl makers who may not have much experience with diagrams yet.
  • Construction details. If your pattern is a garment or other kind of item that is constructed in pieces and then assembled or has any other sort of shaping, etc., make sure you include detail photos of any parts that will help the crocheter understand the instructions and see that she’s following them correctly. For sweater designs, always include a good shot of the shoulder seam, for example. And unless the front and back of a sweater are identical, include a photo of each (this is especially helpful for cardigan designs).
    • Note that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) go overboard with detail photos. You do not need to provide images of every little bit of the design. If a shawl has an intricate edging, do include a photo of it. If it doesn’t, there’s no need to include a detail shot of the edge. If the hemline, neckline and sleeve cuffs of your sweater all involve the same stitch pattern, you only have to show a detail shot of one.
  • Alternate versions. If your pattern specifically includes instructions for two or more distinct versions – say, to accommodate different yarn weights – be sure to include a photo of the finished design for each distinct variation. Likewise if you’re sizing the pattern over a very wide range, include an image at least of the sizing extremes – the cardigan in the infant version, say, and also in the adult version. This way crocheters can see the modifications and adaptations you made to size the pattern for such different proportions and dimensions.

Schematic

If your pattern is for a garment of any sort, you must include a schematic drawing, indicating all key measurements (including chest width or circumference, sleeve length, sleeve width or circumference, neck width, length from armpit to hem, etc.). The schematic should include the measurements for every size offered. Look through books and magazines for examples.

Though they look the best, you do not need to use a computer-generated schematic. If you have superduper Illustrator skills, go for it. But if you don’t, a very neatly rendered hand-drawn schematic will be fine. Be sure to scan the drawing, don’t just take a picture of it on your phone and call it a day – the angle will be in some way wonky, and it just won’t be as useful and certainly won’t appear professional. Scan the drawing, clean it up on your computer if needed, and you’ll be good to go.

Stitch Diagrams

These, too, are very useful to include in patterns that involve anything other than rows upon rows (or rounds) of basic stitches. Stitch patterns, motifs, granny squares – all such patterns are vastly improved by the inclusion of stitch diagrams.

Like schematics, you can include hand-drawn diagrams if you need to. I have approximately zero skills creating stitch diagrams, so I ask my tech editor to make them for me. If I didn’t have the extra budget, I’d hand draw them, clearly and neatly.

Charts

Any designs involving stranded colourwork or intarsia, or filet crochet, should include a gridded chart. You can make these in a spreadsheet (resize the the rows and columns into squares), or with fancier software, or, as I’m sure you’re ready to say with me now, you can draw them neatly on graph paper.

So. Images. They’re really important. Photos should be clear – not at all blurry, no flash used, styled to convey important construction information. Schematics should be easy to read. Charts and diagrams should be present, and each should include a key or legend.

Obviously, for any skill required that you don’t have sharpened yet yourself, I suggest you hire someone. A photographer, a graphic designer, etc. And certainly, absolutely, a tech editor. (More from Kate Atherley on the importance of professional editing coming soon.)

PS Affiliate link.

This has been the 5th post in a multi-part series on how to write a top-notch crochet pattern. The previous post was all about the Language & Terminology. The next post is a second guest post from Kate Atherley, where she makes an excellent case for hiring a professional editor, you can find that post right here.

Time: What We Do and Don’t Do with It

Abby Glassenberg‘s weekly newsletter is one of my favourites. She always makes me think, and she always points me to posts and articles that are informative and helpful.

In yesterday’s newsletter, Abby wrote a response to a question people ask her all the time, “Do you ever sleep?” Abby’s so prolific, and she’s so even-keeled about her work, that it seems like her situation-normal is something the rest of us might assume takes superhuman powers.

Here’s part of what Abby wrote in response:

I choose to work instead of choosing many other things. I don’t watch T.V. (I’ve never seen an episode of 30 Rock or House of Cards – in fact I just had to Google “most popular T.V. shows of 2015” to find out the names of those shows so I could write this) and I don’t read the newspaper. I don’t volunteer at my kids’ school – I’ve never been to a PTA meeting despite having kids in school now for 9 years. I don’t coach the soccer team or organize the Girl Scout troop.

 

So it might seem like I get so much done, but really I just get so much OF THIS done (and almost none of THAT).

She is focused, people.

It’s a level of focus I don’t have, but not in a bad way. Now that my kid is a couple months into proper school, I realize I allocate my time and energy differently than I’d anticipated I would. I’d thought that fewer work hours during the day would mean I’d be that much more focused on working whenever else I can – early mornings, evenings, etc. But that’s not how it’s turning out (and I’m not getting any less work done).

I have managed to become far more efficient at work. It took a couple of months, but I’ve established a good routine, and I’m back to getting work done at an acceptable clip.

I do watch television and read novels and stay on top of local and international news. This fall I started volunteering with a knitting group at a residence for people with mental illness, and I’ve recently been coordinating a donation drive for Carry the Future. I’m the website coordinator for the PAC (that’s what we call the PTA here) at my kid’s school.

The busier I am, the more I get done and the more satisfied I feel. The more I fill my tanks with input unrelated to my work (within reason), the more inspired I get to do good work. I need a tremendous amount of diversity in what I do in order to stay interested in each thing; the variety prevents me from burning out.

It’s neat to think about this. I so admire Abby’s laser focus, and her talking about it led me to think about my own need for lots of variety, and how having lots of balls in the air enables me to get good work done.

How do you navigate making choices about all the possible things you could do with the limited amount of time you have in a day?