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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.


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 makes 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!


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 :) :)

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! :)


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, 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!! :)


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!!


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.


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!!


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! :)


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!!!


  1. My, you have been busy playing with your new planner! Thanks for sharing your organization on Midweek Makers

  2. You are amazing!!!!! I loved reading your post and the way you have customized your planner so beautifully. Awesome!

  3. Oh my goodness, this is marvelous -- your journal and your fn, detailed post. Thank you.

  4. Holy yikes! I'm gonna have to hibernate just to regarding my strength from reading all you have planned. You are clearly too accomplished for the likes of me! 😉


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