Friday, November 2, 2018

Guinea Piggies are the Best Piggies! and No-sew cage liner instructions

This fall, we added a guinea pig to our family.  If you follow me on Instagram, you may have already noticed...  Tia has been a wonderful addition and we love her!

It was love at first nuzzle.

Almost immediately, I began looking for a less dusty, more eco-friendly way to keep her cage clean.  While, yes, she does use the bathroom in the cage, I don't have to have an extra room that smells like a bathroom.  And paper bedding, while it did control the smell quite well, is hard to spot clean to pick up the 12 million ahem magic beans Tia produces on the DAILY.  Seriously, I'm amazed at how much poop an animal that fits in my hands makes!

"She's been really preoccupied with poop lately, hasn't she?"

We currently have a MidWest Homes for Pets Wabbitat Deluxe for Miss Tia.  It's big enough for a second piggie, if she can ever approve a roommate!  She's a little diva, that one.  I can't imagine how she picked us to come home with... ::shifty eyes::

Many people have written about the virtues of fleece bedding for guinea pigs and Tia seems to agree!  It's easier for her to run around on the fleece than the paper stuff, and she doesn't kick it out of the cage.  Win-win! When thinking about proper bedding for guinea pigs, you need something to absorb any wet messes and something with wicking properties that sits on top of the absorbent layers to keep their feet and bellies dry.  After a few weeks of trial and error, we've found a less dusty way to deal with Tia's living space.  Bonus - it involves cute fabric! (Grabs the coupons and heads to the fabric store... "No, honey, I know I don't need more fabric. It's for the piggie!!")

U-haul's Furniture Pads are a great absorbent layer.  They are made from recycled cotton (yay recycling textiles!), they are absorbent, they are inexpensive, and they can be laundered forever.  IN HOT WATER.  DRIED ON HIGH HEAT.  TO KILL ALL THE SMELLS.  I kept finding all these options that needed to be washed on cold and dried on low.  How do you kill the smells and germs this way?  I don't understand... And I don't have to now.

I pre-washed these several cycles on HOT/HOT with vinegar to get the manufacturing oils and smell out of them, BEFORE CUTTING.  They did shrink some (as was expected), so I didn't plan my cutting until AFTER I was confident they were fully preshrunk.  They shed lint like crazy, so be sure to thoroughly clean your dryer's lint trap before and after (and possibly during) every cycle.

Each furniture pad starts out 68" x 85" (per the package), before washing.  Ours stretched/shrunk to around 70" x 75" after. I don't understand it either, but there it is.  Cotton.  shrugs

The bottom tray for our cage is 45" x 21".  (Be sure to measure the dimensions INSIDE the cage, not just go with the dimensions on the box - those are exterior and you will end up with inaccurate cuts.)  I decided to cut with 1" extra fabric on both dimensions to account for future shrinkage.  With a little planning, I was able to get 4 tray liners out of one furniture pad, with some left over fabric for other projects.  Here is the cut chart we followed, cutting on the dotted lines.

The base layer of her bedding is now several layers of the Uhaul pads (about 1/8" thick each), topped with some adorable fleece fabric that had also been pre-washed.

Fleece fabric isn't prohibitively expensive, and the best way to buy fleece yardage is in the form of no-sew fleece kits.  They are especially affordable right now, because they are popular Christmas gifts and regularly go on sale 50% (or more!) off in the fall.  Big box stores ALWAYS have coupons, so double up when you can!  Each kit has 2 pieces of fabric and is plenty enough to get 2 cage liners, plus excess fabric - that's already color coordinated!! - for piggie cozies or pouches.

The fleece I purchased is around 48" x 60".  I wanted a final cut around 27" x 60", so the fleece will wrap around and under the Uhaul pads.  To cut, find the long side and bring the long sides together.  Then measure 27" from the edge and cut from the fold across.  This yields a piece of fleece long enough to fold under all edges and pin the overlapping flaps together, wrapping the Uhaul pads away from burrowing, inquisitive piggies.  I used stainless steel diaper pins to secure the fleece (hopefully they won't rust as quickly) and if needed, the fleece can be pinned to the underside of the cotton pads as well.

Cage assembly is a breeze now!  I pin the fleece around the cotton pads, lay the corners in place, reassemble the kitchen area shelf, and voila!  Done!

I know she's not a hedgehog, but thought she might like some rodent company in her big cage all by herself.
Also, who can resist happy pink hedgehogs and flowers?

Every few days, I use a little whisk broom and dustpan like this one to clean up the solid waste.  I also clean out the litter box that holds hay, etc. and wipe down with a 50/50 vinegar/water solution.

On total cage cleaning days, I remove the pigloo and toys, sweep up solid waste, pull out the lining and take it outside to brush the hay bits and guinea pig hair off.  Next, it goes in the washer on hot!  While it's washing, I spray down all the hard surfaces with the vinegar solution and wipe out.  Then reassemble the cage as above.  

Tia always likes to explore her freshly cleaned cage.
Less dust, less mess, less trash, quick & easy to change, more popcorns - everyone is happier!

P.S. - Great info on fleece bedding and how to prepare it is available from the Cali Cavy Collective.

P.P.S - There are pros and cons to this type of bedding - a little Googling will turn up lots of discussion on this topic.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

How I get the gross out of raw fleece

After I've selected & skirted a fleece, I usually wrap it up in the plastic drop cloth and store until I'm ready to wash.  If there was a lot of VM that shook out, I will gather up the fleece into smaller bags and shake the VM off outside.  Another thought about the VM - if it shook out easily when you opened up the fleece, it will likely shake out easily later, too.  I usually gather up the plastic and put the fleece into a plastic tub that is stacking friendly, and where small animals can't get into it.  (I get it: it's warm, it smells like a barn, not the worst place to make your welcome, but we have no vacancies here.) Right now, I store raw fleece in our basement that is climate controlled for ease of access and rodent avoidance.

If the fleece stash outgrows the basement at some point, I'll likely take Judith MacKenzie's tip about 5 gallon buckets with lids.  Shove the raw fleece into the bucket, pushing the air out, and put the lid on, sealing it with a rubber mallet.  The lack of air flow should prevent the grease from souring too quickly and rodents won't be able to get into the bucket, even if they could smell it.

I wash fleece when it's warm out for a few reasons: cold is really hard on me and wet cold is even worse, I believe it takes more water when heat doesn't help things along, and the dirty nasty water is GREAT for watering our flowers.

To prepare the fleece for washing, I put up to 8 oz of fleece into  delicate bag like these.  This makes it easy to fish wool out of the water without agitating it too much and also makes it easy to avoid lots of wool going down the drain later.  I tend to wash in small batches because that's easier for me to lift and handle, but if you have a big enough space to soak and wash, and enough delicate bags, wash the whole fleece if you want!

Delicious... for the flowers.
The first step when I wash is a cold water soak.  I have a plastic tub that is placed on our back deck and filled with cold water.  I put a few delicate bags of wool (my tub holds up to 2 lbs at a time) on top of the water and let them sink in as they absorb the water.  I then cover the tub with a black plastic bag (solar energy, y'all!) and ignore it for 5-7 days.  Covering the bin keeps birds (and inquisitive huskys...) out of the smelly soaking wool and using black helps to keep the water warm overnight when the temp drops.  Soaking will help loosen up dirt, soften up VM and will help dissolve suint (the dirty, sticky sweat part of wool grease).  Depending on the gross level of this fleece, I will sometimes dump the water, pull the bags out onto the deck, let as much gross water drain off as possible while refilling the tub with fresh cold water.  I lay the bags back into the cold water and recover for a few more days of soaking.

Warning - when you uncover this tub - IT WILL SMELL SOMETHING AWFUL.  You are liquefying the grossest gross here, so brace yourself.  (Most gross?  How come grosser sounds wrong but grossest sounds less so? ::shrugs::)  And be glad this isn't happening in your kitchen, right?!  I started soaking after reading about the fermented suint method which is great if you are on limited water consumption, but takes a stronger stomach and more dedication than I have (also see note about inquisitive husky above).  By doing a shorter cool soak, you are getting rid of the grossest of gross without your backyard smelling like a barn all summer, and without running the risk of any of the variables described failing on you and having to scour even after you ignored the barnyard smell on your patio all summer.  The fermented suint method isn't hard - and once you get things cooking, it sustains itself, but getting the conditions favorable can sometimes take a few tries.  More info about this method is here.

After the wool has soaked a few days (or you remember it's out there and gather the spoons to deal with it), I pour the water out and let the wool drain for a few minutes while I ready the sink for washing.  Another reason for washing during the summer - the ambient temperature is already 80F+ so there's not a risk of shock/felting when I take the wet wool from cold water to hot to scour.

Scouring wool from a dirty, greasy sheep
Sadly, I don't have a utility sink, which would be perfect for this type of thing.  (Thanks for putting the plumbing DIRECTLY next to the electrical box, architect guy.)  So I use the sink I have available.  I move everything adjacent to cooking out of the way, scrub down the sink and counter tops, and run a sink full of water as hot as my tap will go.  I add appropriate measures of Unicorn Power Scour for the water level and then add a bag of wool.  Wearing dish washing gloves, I gently press the wool down into the hot water (I keep a separate pair for scouring/felting/fulling).

Don't let the hot water run OVER the wool - it may felt the fleece.

Next, I set a timer - usually for 15-20 minutes - to come back and pull the wool out of the hot water.  If you let the water cool too much, the lanolin will redeposit on the wool, which defeats the purpose of the hot wash water.  When the timer rings, I gently move the bag out of the way to see the level of gross in the wash water and pull the sink stopper. Let gross water drain off, lift the bag of wool out, warm up the water flow until it's at its hottest, replug the sink and repeat.  I repeat this process until the water is mostly clear.

After the water is mostly clear, I rinse 1-2 times to get all of the soap out.  I run warm water, lay the bag of wool into it and let it sit for 5-10 minutes.  Repeat until I don't get bubbles when draining or pressing the excess water out of the wool.

If I go more than 3 rounds in the scour, I finish with a warm rinse in Unicorn Fiber Rinse.  This makes sure the soap is all out of the wool and gives the clean wool a nice, soft hand.

After the last rinse, I take the wool down to my spin dryer.  I have this one, but when it dies, I will upgrade to this beauty! I place the bag of wool into the spin dryer and run it for 2-3 minutes, or until water stops streaming out of the drain tube.  Then I take the wool out of the bag and spread it on a drying frame like this one to dry next to our dehumidifier.  This way, the wool dries in less than a day!

My method is the combination of lots of reading, some trial and error and the limitations of my spoonie self and what we have on hand.  It is, by no means, the end all.  Definitely read far and wide and see what works best for you!  My favorite scouring tutorial is by Beth Smith.

A note about lanolin in my pipes: If Beth is scouring 300 pounds of wool a year and putting that water down her drains without problems, I'm not gonna worry about my scant 1-2 fleeces a year.

Happy scouring & spinning!

How I buy all the fleeces!

It's no secret: I love wool.  I love soft wool, I love toothy wool, I love the texture of wool, I love working with wool.  Sometimes, I even love the smell of it.  I love the feel of lanolin on my hands after rubbing on a sweet sheepy face.

But, as we all know, sheep are prone to rub themselves all over some less than savory things.  Since the best wool comes from their bodies, they tend to get a bit... well.... gross.  Some sheep are more gross (grosser? That can't be right...) than others.  Some just love burying their faces in the hay trough back to their shoulder blades.  Some sheep love to roll in weeds.  And since they live outside, sheep get dirty.  And hey, everybody poops.

Regardless of all the gross factors above, fleeces sing a siren song most spinners are powerless to resist.  The tables of raw fleeces at wool shows draw you in, singing soft melodies of all the potential of these pounds of wool.  Some melodies are dancing, bouncy melodies, their fine crimp giggling at you, enticing you to come closer; other melodies are slower, shining melancholy melodies with beautiful locks of waves from a long wool breed waiting for your admiration.  Some even sing their own counterpoint, as natural colored locks hint at the depth of color in your finished yarn.  In a word, irresistible.

Speaking of singing, it's important to test any raw fleece you are considering for purchase for breaks or brittle fibers.  This guide to wool assessment from Shaltz Farm is a good one and describes how I ping locks to check for sound lock structure.  A fleece with a break in it isn't necessarily a deal breaker, but it will change the way you can handle and spin with that wool.  I hear the ping like a plucked string on a string instrument (violin, viola, guitar).  It will have a tone to it and a little ring.  If upon repeated snaps, the ring changes tone or gets less audible or goes away completely, there is a break in the fiber.  In a long staple fleece, you may be able to work around that break.  In a short staple fiber, handspinning may not be the best path for a fleece with a break in it.  Judith MacKenzie addresses this far better than I ever could in her DVD Three Bags Full - definitely check it out.

It is also important to know what type of fleece you are buying and the characteristics of that fleece before you buy.  Definitely grab a copy of The Field Guide to Fleece to throw into your festival bag.  It's small and worth the extra few ounces!

A raw fleece I purchased online from a shepherd.
Buying fleece online is a bit of a gamble, but this one was a winner! 
Raw fleeces are fleeces that have been shorn from the sheep, collected and, usually dumped rather unceremoniously into a trash bag for storage & transport.  Raw fleece will still have all the grease the sheep produced while growing it, as well as VM and anything that stuck to the grease or wool.  Raw fleeces usually contain vegetable matter, also known as VM: bits of straw, grass, seeds, burrs, etc.   They can also contain leg and belly wool (less desirable for handspinners, as it is lower quality), which are also usually high in VM.  They can also contain 'tags', from the phrase 'tag end'; tags are found on the back end of a sheep and all the business that goes on there.  ew

When looking at a raw fleece, it is important to determine if it has been skirted.  Skirting is a process where the least desirable wool has been removed and discarded.  A skirted raw fleece should not contain ANY tags whatsoever; a 'lightly skirted' fleece can mean that only tags have been removed.  Some shepherds also remove leg and belly wool as well; they may refer to this as a skirted fleece or a well-skirted fleece.  Interpretation is open to the shepherd, so be sure talk to the shepherd, ask questions about how aggressively they skirt and maybe ask to open up a raw fleece and look at it yourself.  This can help you assess the whole fleece and decide on the value of the asking price per pound. Everybody poops, but you don't want to pay for that by the pound...

When I get a raw fleece home, I like to lay out a plastic drop cloth like these and spread the fleece out on top.  You never know what will shake out and it's nice to have something to protect your floor!  I spread out the fleece and if it has stayed together well, try to orient the blanket into a quasi-sheep shape.  While the fleece is spread out on the floor, look for areas of wool you might not want to spin.  There's nothing wrong with separating your fleece into 'firsts' and 'seconds'.  Just because it isn't something that would be nice next to your skin in a sweater or hat doesn't mean it's not worth using.   Rugs need to be tough, not soft, so don't forget about the possibility of corespinning that rough fleece into some sturdy rug yarn!

This monster fleece required a second skirting,
but you can see how the 'blanket' held together as we unrolled it. 
This helped us skirt more efficiently.
At this point, I do any additional skirting that may be needed and also grab up any second cuts (short bits cut by a second pass with the shearing blades that aren't near the length of the rest of the fleece).  Second cuts can be thrown into a separate bin for stuffing, quilt batting or to create nubs or tweedy bits on a drum carder, if you like.  (If you plan to incorporate them into your spinning, be sure to wash them, too!)

I don't know about you, but I don't really want all that dirt and ahem other stuff on me, my lap, my bobbins or my wheel while I'm spinning.  Some handspinners do choose to spin certain fleeces 'in the grease' and more power to them!  There are a few sheep breeds that lend themselves to this, as they have low grease content in their fleece and the fleece is usually fairly clean, as the grease is what grabs onto the dirt.  Most medium and fine fleeces tend to be greasy, and need some TLC before they are ready to be spun.

My next post will be about getting the gross out!

P.S. - another great post about the fermented suint method from Ask the Bellwether here.

Friday, March 23, 2018


I was always crap at impov in college (music major here!).  I had to learn to do it and I understood the concept of it.  Nearly every time, I froze up or it was totally boring or I wasn't happy with what I did.  I'm not gonna lie, fear of playing something completely awful dominated my experience around it. (One prof told me I would be fine if I just got out of my head... and another prof told me I would be find if I just came to a lesson after a few drinks!! gotta love old jazz guys - they have no filter).  Once it was out there, there was no taking it back and if it was total crap, it was forever total crap.

Some knitters have this same fear with their knitting and deviating from a pattern.  Amazingly, I've never really had that fear.  Deviations could work or not work and all I had to do was rip it out and try it again.  (This is what lifelines are for!)  Nothing in my knitting has to stay 'forever total crap' if I want to fix it.

When I bought this lovely yarn, the idea was to knit Tin Can Knits' Windswept.  It's a lovely yarn, this is a lovely sweater; together, it will be lovely!  But I hit a few snags, and it had me re-thinking this plan.  After some further project stalking, it seemed this sweater looked great on a specific body type (that wasn't my body type).  So I frogged what I had done, the yarn went back into the bag and into stash purgatory.

Au revoir, pretty yarn!
It was in purgatory for over a year when I got the itch to knit it again.  I actually kept coming back to a pattern by the same designer, from the same collection even:  the Lush Cardigan. But again, body type and fit... grumble, grumble.  After a bit of plotting, I decided that I wanted elements of the sweater, but not the exact sweater.  I can do that.  And if I hate it, I can just rip it out again and try something else again in 2 more years. ha!

I have detailed construction notes on my project page in Ravelry, but the TL;DR of it is: I took the lace at the top, made it a V-neck pullover, increased the circumference to give it positive ease, then knit until it was long enough to wear as a tunic with leggings.

When I got down to the bottom, I decided I wanted a little less structure - a split hem was just the thing!  BUT, a split hem meant switching from knitting in the round to knitting flat; this also likely meant a change in gauge (the size of the stitches) and required a change in needle size (so it didn't look wonky).  I wasn't sure how I wanted to handle this, and I knew I would want to reinforce the spot where the front & back split and I wasn't sure how to handle that either!

Then the solution came to me - why not steek it?!
("steek" is knitter-speak for cutting your knitting.)

I hadn't done a partial steek like this before, but I'd done a full steek on my Sugarleaf cardigan.  This couldn't be as intimidating as that!  I also wanted to try securing my steek stitches on my sewing machine, and these little baby steeks would be perfect practice!

I designated certain stitches as 'steek stitches' in my sweater, knit to the length I wanted and bound the knitting off.  Then I dug out my trusty swatch and dialed in my Singer sewing machine to test sewing into my knitted fabric.

After a few adjustments, I landed on this:

Tiny stitch length is key!  My sewn stitches just disappeared, especially when I was between the knit Vs!

When zoomed back, it wasn't noticeable at all. So I prepped some ribbon to sew onto my swatch.

After I sewed that down, I mocked up the reinforcement for the split.

All good and practically invisible in the middle of the stitch!

Next up was sewing & cutting the real thing!  Here is the bottom of the sweater, with the sewn reinforcement in place:

I turned on my brightest light, got the glasses on and carefully cut between my sewn reinforcements.

After the cutting, I picked up stitches for the ribbing just like I would a button band or collar.  Once those were done, it was time to sew ribbon over the cut edges to help the ribbing keep its shape and protect the cut stitches from fraying (and really, keeping the fuzz off of everything else I own! I wasn't concerned about the knitting unraveling at all.) .

I sewed both long sides down, then the top pieces last.

When all was said and done, I was very happy with the outcome.

I will definitely use a sewn reinforcement for steeks in the future. Give it a try!  Take a little time to dial in your machine, test your swatch, sew slowly.

One tip - I found that there was an edge on the bobbin plate of my sewing machine that had never caught store-bought material, but did snag my swatch when I sewed it.  So I held tissue paper under my knit fabric as I fed it through the machine to keep it from snagging.  I didn't intend to sew the tissue to the material, but the few times I did, it just peeled right off.

My completely improvised sweater is done and cozy and I love it! No takebacks!

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

BRB, Dyeing...

A few years ago, a friend and I went on a mini-version of the I-75 yarn crawl.  Part of the festivities were special discounts, sales and drawings to win things! I entered just because, and instantly forgot because I seem to rarely have good luck.  About a week later, I received a phone call from one of the southern-most shops we visited, and the lady on the other end said I had won a prize drawing for 10 balls of Cascade 220 superwash, a pattern and a bag. Awesome, right?!

She got my address and shipped the whole thing to me since I wasn't exactly local.  I don't remember seeing the prize out that day, but was a bit disappointed when I opened the box.  It was periwinkle.  2200 yards of periwinkle. 

This photo is from WEBS.  If you are a person who can wear periwinkle, get your own here.
Now, for some people, periwinkle is a lovely color they can wear.  I am not one of those people.  I am one of the people who put on periwinkle and instantly look like they are recovering from (or still suffering from or have succumbed to) an awful illness.  I can't wear even a little periwinkle next to my face, let alone an entire garment's worth of periwinkle.  What was I going to do with this?

My first thought was to try to destash it.  Someone who liked and could wear periwinkle might want it.  Locally, I took it in to destash night at my LYS and said make me an offer.  No takers.  Then I put it in destash on Rav.  I got some hearts, but not even as much as one PM about buying it.  In 2 years.

My second thought was that it could be overdyed.  I wanted to avoid this if I could, because I had heard you can make a terrible mess of things and ruin the yarn if you don't know what you're doing.  Felted yarn isn't much good for anything except... felt.  This was superwash, so felting wasn't really an option, but it could get crunchy if I acid-burned it.  Since I didn't know what I was doing, it sat in my stash, in the bag, for a few years, moved houses, and generally took up space.

Fast-forward to last month.  I had recently rearranged my stash and was tired of moving this yarn from place to place (both in my stash and geographically).  Periodically, I'd gotten the idea to overdye this stuff and had never just gone for it.  There are tons of great sites online with dyeing tutorials, but I kept coming back to . My last inclination was to Kool-aid dye itLots of people do it, and it seems to work really well.  But then I realized it would take approximately $40 worth of Kool-aid to dye it all.  Forget that!!

I reconsidered using food dyes instead of Kool-aid.  They are also edible and generally safe to handle.  They are also easily obtainable and probably have more color combinations available (as you can create your own with a drop of this or that).  I already had citric acid in the cupboard, so that wasn't a hurdle and it's pretty easy to handle safely as well. 

I realized that I had more than enough yarn to experiment with dyeing and still have plenty left over.  I already had a crockpot, a food thermometer, citric acid and plenty of yarn.  All I needed was some food dye and I had a 50% off coupon from Joann's - it was time to just do this! 

First step was sampling.  I wound off 5 10 gram mini-skeins and secured them using crochet cotton ties.

After I prepped the yarn, I put it in the dye bath (water and citric acid) to soak and really get saturated.  Meanwhile, I chose some colors to play with: Royal Blue, Teal, Violet, Burgundy and Pink.

Newb facepalm warning: Put on gloves when you open those little vials unless you wanna stain your fingers.  Stupid foil lids!!

I put the yarn & dye bath into the crockpot on high to heat until it reached ~180 degrees. When it was close to temperature, I prepared my dye by diluting measured amounts in hot water. 

Yes, those are wine glasses. Judge if you wanna...  They pour better than the little glass dish on the right.  
Once the dye bath was at 180, I added each color of dye to a specific area of the pot.  Everything I read indicated to let it cook at 180 until the water was clear.

Yeah, about the black crock... 

After a bit, I scooped some water up in a wine glass and when it was mostly clear, we called the first mission done.  I unplugged the crockpot and let it cool overnight.

After a thorough rinsing, spinning out the excess water and drying, I had transformed periwinkle into this:

Clockwise: Teal, pink, burgundy, violet, royal blue, original
ALL of which will look better on me than periwinkle!!  The yarn wasn't crunchy and it was fun to see how the colors pooled when they overlapped!  I decided that blue and teal were my faves, so I did another test - with the remaining yarn from the ball shown on the top left.

I made careful notes of my dye proportions and scaled this up to half a skein. I loved it, so I was ready to do ALL of it!

I ended up with a second crockpot, with a WHITE crock - because I needed a bigger one to do two skeins at once AND because black isn't helpful for seeing when the water is clear... I learned a few things about water ratios and how fast dye will strike if you don't swirl it first... and I learned that a good washing after dyeing is necessary because food dye has a wee bit of sugar in it and can make your hands a bit sticky. haha

Now, I have over 1,300 yards of lovely blue/teal yarn that is dying to become a sweater next fall!

I've already knit a swatch and know it will become a Worsted Boxy by Jojo Locatelli.

While this was work & I definitely don't see myself becoming a yarn dyer (wet yarn is heavy, y'all!), I enjoyed doing it and will absolutely be dyeing again in the future.  In fact, I already have some yarn in mind... :)

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

BuJo Like No One's Watching

Okay, my final thought on my bullet journal is this:  BuJo like no one's watching.

There are many artistically talented people who bullet journal.  That is great.  I love looking through the hashtag when I've got a few minutes of waiting to do (but not enough to pull out the knitting!).

There are many people who post their amazing journals daily on Instagram, etc.  That is also great.  It's great that they feel okay sharing that with the world.

At the end of the day, my bullet journal is for ME and me alone.

My bullet journal is private.  Not every page is a masterpiece.  Most pages are just black ink on a white page.  I may sometimes share something I've drawn, if it's fantastic or fantastically terrible or just a sentiment I want to share.  That is also great.

I do this because it makes me happy, more productive, more focused, less likely to be self-critical and helps me recognize patterns related to my health, emotional and physical.  And I can't do that if I'm second-guessing every pen stroke for public consumption.

I doodle, I rant, I make mistakes, cross things out, misspell words, run out of room on a line.  But I don't reach for the white out.  I strike-through and move on.

I buy supplies as I see the NEED for them.  I do have a few stencils and a monthly grid stamp.  I used the last of my scrapbooking pen stash and as I'm killing those jelly roll pens off, I'm moving on to a pack I grabbed for $5 on Amazon.   If I feel like using something, I use it.  No saving things for when the queen comes to visit.

Same goes for notebooks.  I bought this AWESOME leather journal cover (with a plain Dick Blick sketch book inside) YEARS ago, but never used it because I was afraid of it not being perfect.  I can literally replace it anytime I want. Why was I afraid to write in it?

Yes, that is a Weeping Angel from my favorite episode of Doctor Who - Blink 

Anyway, who cares if I 'mess it up'?  I'm human.  I'm allowed to mess things up.  You are, too.

I added this train wreck right here to keep it real. 
I'd been watching too much Bob Ross and believing him when he said 'happy accidents'...
This isn't a happy anything - this is a hot mess!
But I left it in there.

If you feel like you need a way to get yourself together, grab a $5 notebook from Amazon or Walmart and a pen you like to write with and just start.  Don't think about it, just start writing.  You may be surprised with what appears on the page.

Monday, January 22, 2018

How I Bullet Journal

Going through the 'get started guide' from the official Bullet Journal people, I title my pages and number them just like they recommend.  I know it sounds silly, but those numbered pages have been really helpful to me more than once already!  I don't number the whole book at once though - I do 10-20 pages at a time.

I don't log in full sentences, but phrases instead.

I use the bullets and signifiers for tasks, events, appointments, notes, as well.  I have also added a heart for memories.


I definitely love the index! It goes hand-in-hand with the numbered pages and I use it more than I thought I would.  Not daily, but when I need to go looking for something, it's always there for me.

I tried using a future log & found I never updated it OR referred back to it.  Also, the dates and events that mainly filled my future log are in my Google calendar.  Writing them again here, in a format I don't refer back to just didn't seem efficient to me. That one didn't get included in my set-up for this year's layout.

The monthly log didn't work out so well for me either - I tried the calendar part, and found that I wasn't updating it, like the future log, or when I did update it, there wasn't enough space for what I needed, even using abbreviated entries.  I do like the monthly task list and have a page for that each month.

I like to free write or find a poem or thought for each month, if one strikes me as perfect.  I like to start the month that way.

What I added, in lieu of the monthly & future logs, was a weekly log.  I found this idea on social media somewheres and it works really well for me.

I start each month with a new weekly log, so my logs always run 1-7 and the days of the week change.  I look at my Google calendar for appointments, holidays, etc... and mark them over to this weekly layout.  This keeps the amount of information I need to focus on pertinent without being overwhelming.

I usually use my time writing out my week as a little bit of self-care and add a quote or thought on the opposite page.  Sometimes I decorate or embellish it, sometimes I don't.  More on that later!

What I always do to my weekly log is use washi tape along the edge, to help me turn to the current week quickly.  And it's pretty.  So there's that.

Between weekly logs, I use the daily log.

I use the daily log almost exactly as described by Ryder, the creator of the bullet journal.  Some days have lots of bullets, others have a few, sometimes the day doesn't have anything I feel like recording!  And all of those are okay.  It's always there, with a fresh page, when I get back.  There's no guilt from flipping past several pre-printed pages with dates and lines and NOTHING written on them.  I know it's a little thing, but it really bugged me before.  No more!!

I also journal in my bullet journal; but only when I feel like it.  I just start writing where there is space on the page, or on the back of my daily log page.  I write until I feel like I don't have anything else to say and my next daily log goes on the next blank page.  There's something wonderful about venting all over a page and then having a nice clean page up the next time you pick it back up.  You're done with the stuff you wrote before; you don't need to read it again unless you choose to.

Another really popular aspect to bullet journals are habit trackers.  You can track anything you like: sleep, water consumption, savings, moods, bodily functions, intimacy... the sky is the limit. Seriously, if you want to track it, someone on Pinterest has ideas for how to do so.

These are harder for me, as I don't tend to flip all the way through my journal every night.  I think they are a good thing, though.  I'm going to try to continue working on creating this habit to see if any trends emerge.  If I find a better-for-me way to habit track, I'll share.