54 -10 = 44

Happy Birthday Cheryl Arkison

Today is my birthday. 44 trips around the sun.

Because I have a love of alliteration I have a special affinity for this particular year. I suppose that means I like all years that are multiples of 11. Perhaps there is a meaning to that in numerology?

Regardless of both my birthday and whatever that numerology may mean, I’ve been thinking about my Quilts Under Construction list this week. So far in 2019 I’ve finished two quilts, a handful of quilt tops, and just have the binding to do on another. Miraculously, I’ve only actually started one quilt and it is already a finished top. Every day I sew, it’s just that it takes awhile to see progress the way I do it - 30 minutes a day, if I’m lucky and small piecing of late.

Quilts Under Construction

Morning tea in hand, I double checked my master list of Quilts Under Construction. It stands at 54, as of today. Even with those finishes I mentioned above. It isn’t that the number upsets me, it’s that I actually do want to finish some quilts. I want the excitement that comes with burying the last threads from quilting or the peace of hand stitching the binding. I want to live with these quilts, not just the creative outlet.

So, as of today - my birthday - I am stating the goal that I want to make this list down to 44 by next year. It seems doable. There are a lot of projects on there that I am still so excited to work on! A few small ones to round out some epic projects, some ones that have been around forever and deserve their day in the sun. And, my Bernina just came back from a trip to the spa so some quilting is in order.

But first, cake. Then assembling those blocks behind me into a quilt top. And washing the floors so I can baste a quilt or two. I did want to research lights for filming video this week. Oh wait, I have to take my son to ballet today too.

10 finished quilts this year. Hold me to it, alright?

Adventure - A Quilt for Not a Book

Improv quilting Doe fabric


36'' x 42''

My husband defines the distinction between an excursion and an adventure as this: When you go on an excursion everyone makes it back. When you go on an adventure, somebody or something doesn't survive the trip. He is morbid and sarcastic, that man. 

This quilt is definitely an adventure.

A few years ago I had an idea for a book. I was fresh off the publication of You Inspire Me to Quilt, still riding high. Over bourbon on the best patio over I sat down with an industry friend, a good colleague, and we were brainstorming ideas for my next book. We both got really excited about one particular idea. It was stellar. Or maybe it was the bourbon talking?

Walking Foot Quilting Aurifil Thread
Robert Kaufman Essex Linen

Nope, it's still a pretty good idea. Unfortunately, my publisher did not necessarily agree. Even though I've published three books I can't just throw an idea at them and have them send a contract my way immediately. So I took a few months to flesh it out. Because of the nature of the concept this required more time than I usually need at this stage. A book proposal is necessarily detailed as it is - table of contents, sample chapter, and quilt examples all required - but this one needed even more to get the concept across. I got all this together and then they came back with a request for an actual quilt to see the concept in action.


Sure, okay. I went right to it. Got the quilt top all made, got it basted, then stopped. Life got busy. And it's never really stopped. No excuse, because I've made other quilts in the meantime. But the mojo slipped away after the initial burst of work. Then the reality of whether I truly had the time to actually write another book sunk in. I did not. Not for about 2 years there. I so desperately wanted to, but unless I became both a) suddenly flush with cash and b) able to function on zero sleep for months at a time it wasn't going to happen.

I won't lie, I shed some tears over this. Frustrated and annoyed at the position I was in - even though I put myself in that exact position - I wallowed for a bit. I got depressed seeing the success of others in the industry via social media, jealous even. It was ugly and mean spirited on my part, to be perfectly honest. And that is before I beat myself up on the regular about it all.

Not sure how exactly, but gaining some perspective changed everything. At some point I took stock of my own successes and felt proud. I started to play my own game. I saw all the freelance, short burst writing I was doing as practice for everything else. My schedule, or at least my approach to it, allowed for more time. So I re-pitched the book concept. 

Shot down again.

This time though I decided the quilt I'd started needed to not languish on the closet shelf. Up there it mocked me, made me feel like a failure. It was time to reclaim that part of my creative history. At worst, it becomes another story to tell at a trunk show (or on a blog). At best, it becomes a cool quilt gifted to a beautiful baby. So here it is. 

This quilt went on a creative adventure. The book never came back alive, but that's okay. The journey was still worth it. And who knows, that concept hasn't died entirely...

Improvisational Quilts Half Square Triangles
Carolyn Friedlander Doe Fabric

Quilt Details:

-  Fabric is a couple of Mini Charm packs of Carolyn Friedlander Doe mixed with her curated selection of Kona cottons. It was a give away from Quilt Market a few years back. The background is Essex Linen.

- Backing is also from Doe.

- Binding is Carolyn's crosshatch in this amazing green. I wish I could find more.

- Quilted with a pale yellow from Aurifil in straight lines changing directions. There were a million knots to bury with the quilting pattern I chose, but I do love the end result.

2018 Let's Do This!

Sewing and Camping

That annual moment where we look forward to all that we want to do. I'm realizing that, professionally, I can be like the January gym rat. Full of ideas and ambition, then life and laziness and chocolate take over. 

Last year I had similar thoughts, but it took me a while to put my finger on it exactly. I never set annual goals for 2017. Instead, I sat down on the first of each month and did an aspirational task list. Finish this particular quilt, query a manuscript so many times, catch up on Financials, that sort of thing. To do lists are awesome! Doing this allowed me to keep our family life in greater perspective.

I'll be honest, I don't put much credence into the term work/life balance. I don't like the implication that it is a seesaw. That balance somehow means stasis or that one is higher than the other when not in balance. So setting this monthly aspirational task lists allows me to look at what we have going on as a family (swim meets, dance performances, visiting family) in relation to teaching gigs and deadlines. Then I can see what I can realistically fit in above and beyond them. 

Tiny flowers

This whole thing has been great for gaining perspective and managing expectations. I did not end the year upset that I didn't launch a new video course, for example, because I knew that there was no way I could have made the time to make it happen. No matter how much I wanted to. Oh, how I want to. I could have had my son skip ballet to do it. Or not get involved in the family business as needed to make it happen. But those other things were bigger priorities. Seeing my monthly lists in my planner, along with the family schedule keeps it all in perspective.

Another confession. I am feeling a lot of disdain for the quilt industry of late. Not for quilters or fabric or quilts or the sheer fun of making. But for the behind the scenes industry numbers game and operations, of the constant hustle. Those who play this game know what I am talking about. The regular consumer may even understand it too if you pay attention to launches of books, fabric, and patterns. If you don't need to know, then I recommend keeping it that way. But playing the game is exhausting, Sisyphean on a good day. 

Busy Bee (On Flowers) Sheep River

When you combine my busy real life with this disdain, it only adds to the need for perspective. I won't lie, just a few years ago this probably would have made me angry, real angry. Ambition is strong here. The clarity of the last year is so liberating though. I am okay with things, really. Last year was probably my quietest year professionally. I loved every second of teaching, I pitched articles and met all my deadlines, and that was about it. No major projects, no secrets ready to come out. And no early, early mornings to get it all in. No stress related tantrums. No TV as babysitter so I can get it done. (No gym much either, but we can't win at everything.)

All of this to say, that these monthly ambitious task lists are da bomb! Put 6-10 things on the list. Include things you know you have to do - planned classes, deadlines, entries needed. And include things you want to do. Refer to it often. Very often. 

For example, here is my January 2018 List:

  • Film and post a Shark Quilt Video
  • Finish a baby quilt that has been basted for over a year
  • Re-jig two quilt tops from the Quilts Under Construction pile
  • Finish 2017 Accounting
  • Write notes/outline for a new story I thought of over Christmas
  • Finish Chapter 3 of my novel
  • Send out 5 new Picture Book Queries

Ambitious yes, but totally doable with the time I have in between dance rehearsals, the gym, a synchro competition, a hockey tournament, time spent at 3 pools for the kids, making dinner and snacks, making love, and watching the new season of Workin' Moms. Early mornings, some late nights, stolen moments, and focused action. Let's do this!

Quilts At the Creek

It's Totally Okay. Honest

Hugs and Kisses and Swimming in the Pacific

Looking back on my 2016 goals these days, I see that I failed miserably. 

And I'm totally okay with that. Surprisingly okay with that. 

I am a goal oriented person. I like to tick things off and say that I succeeded. Setting clear goals, as I did last year, gave me something very tangible to work towards. And work, I did. What I did not account for was all the other stuff I wanted or had to do. Nor did I account for new opportunities. So yes, if I look at my list I didn't have a successful year. But if I look at all the things off the list I have absolutely nothing but election results to complain about.

2016 Goals and The Results:


  1. Secure contract and write 4th quilting book - Nope. The reality of a family schedule and knowing what it takes for me to finish a book made this an impossibility. Honestly, I am a bit bummed about it, but that doesn't mean the idea is gone...
  2. Finish and launch new website and blog - Done!! I'm so happy that I sat down and did the work on this. I hope you are too!
  3. Teach at least one 3-day workshop - Actually, I taught a few. This was a goal because I find these immensely rewarding for the students. They get so much done and they get a lot of me. And I get inspiration in return.
  4. Sell more local classes, potentially self hosted - Nope. I had some, but no more than usual. Again, that family schedule made it hard to plan this out. But it remains a 2017 priority. 


  1. Try climbing and Crossfit and maybe Muay Thai again - None of these things happened. But I tried ballet (which I love) and got back to skiing. I joined a gym in the fall and have been going fairly consistently. So, in my head, physical gains made regardless.
  2. Leash train our dog, Roo - The damn black dog remains a challenge. He is getting better. And after many different leashes and harnesses we've settled on a system that works for us (very short leash for a walk then some off leash time). But he stills escapes and barks like the world is ended. Sigh.
  3. Remember and celebrate friends' birthdays - At the beginning of the year I made a big birthday calendar. I can't say I wrote on every FB wall or at least sent a text on each birthday, but I was infinitely better than I'd been in the past. Still room for improvement.
  4. Relearn bread making - I've been working hard at this one. I can do a yeasted bread fairly well. Sourdough? Not so much. It is a new skill for me and I haven't given up yet. The cold of winter seems like a good time to keep experimenting. At least the kitchen is warm.


  1. Learn to English Paper Piece - Yes! I played and figured it out. I'm rather excited to get going on my big project, hopefully later this winter.
  2. Finish 10 quilts from the Quilts Under Construction List - Hmm, I just counted, and I finished 7 from that list. Not too bad, actually. A few moved around the list. And I finished 19 quilts in total last year so there is nothing to complain about there!
  3. Keep a weekly writing date - Well, it wasn't every week, but creative writing did make a fairly regular appearance in my schedule. Enough so that I am expanding on that for this year.
  4. Label all the quilts - Does it count if I made a lot of labels? I have a stack of them in a drawer in the sewing room ready to attach. But I did stay fairly on top of things as I went. Sort of. 
Bike Riding
Hopscotch Quilt

The good thing about a goals list is that it did keep me focused. If I found myself straying or struggling to focus the goals list gave me the direction. But I did find it restrictive a bit and totally ignored it. I ignored it because I had other work come up, because my family's needs were more than I anticipated, because other opportunities shone brighter. And all of those are good reasons and why I don't care that I didn't meet my goals. I don't have shareholders or a board of directors to answer to, only myself. Plus, if I look at what I did accomplish on top of this list, I'm pretty happy.

  • Finished 19 quilts. There is a lot of secret sewing in there (soon, I promise!) and some things I still haven't blogged about.
  • I played, explored, and committed to a Morning Make and my life is not the same
  • My first fabric line comes out any day now.
  • Published about 20 articles in magazines and blogs, not counting my own.
  • Judged QuiltCon and lived to tell the tale.
  • Travelled to Australia, Red, Deer, Ottawa, Montreal, Edmonton, and Leduc to teach. Oh boy, memorable trips, all of them! Bonus: a sunrise swim in the Pacific Ocean.
  • Participated in the Mighty Lucky Quilt Club and The Splendid Sampler.
  • Filmed The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson and Ricky Timms and brought my daughter along with me to make it extra special.
  • Made it through the heavy family schedule of school and competitive sports with the kids without snapping. Possibly even thrived through it, I think. Bonus: watching my kids become fiercely competitive and proud of themselves.
  • Finally figured out how to take out and put back my slider windows so I can wash them myself.
  • Made new friends and built stronger relationships with the dear people in my community. 
  • Committed to and planned out one of the 4 novel ideas I've sat on for a few years.
  • Every week sent out a handle of queries to try to publish at least one of my children's picture book stories. A lot of rejection there, but I won't stop trying, refining, and writing more.
  • Did not sit on the sidelines with my kids. With the exception of trampolines, I go out and do the things with them now. Bought a fancy brace for my knee and that has me back on skis. Not to mention hiking and biking more. Plus nightly frisbee in the park in the summer and bringing them into my Morning Make.
Sentinel Pass
Picnic in Fish Creek

So yeah, 2016 was a pretty good year. It wasn't perfect, I was far from perfect. There were ugly moments, sleepless nights, arguments, and a stress too. A lot of it. But I do believe life is the sum of all our moments. You can add and subtract along the way, but as long as the overall equation results in a positive you are doing okay. 

This look back on the year has me rethinking my goal setting process for 2017. Some people do the Word of the Year thing too. There is also a more business minded approach that gets me thinking about mission and vision statements. I usually get that thinking done over the holidays but we did not have much downtime there. So look for more in my newsletter (are you subscribed?) and here. There is a lot to look forward to this year, again, election results aside.

Champagne Rose
I am Love