Today, my friends Cheryl @Meadow Mist Designs, Stephanie @Late Night Quilter, Terri Ann @Childlike Fascination, and I kick off the 2015 New Quilt Bloggers Blog Hop Facebook group, and I thought that a quick retrospective on just where I was one year ago when I joined the 2014 New Quilt Blogger’s Blog Hop versus where I am today would be appropriate.
In addition to this years New Quilt Bloggers kickoff, yesterday I was honored, excited, and grateful to find out that Triangle Transparency won the Original Design category of the Online Blogger’s Festival this year. If you haven’t already, you can check out the full list of Spring 2015 Winners. The contrast between that humbling news and thinking about where I was a year ago has me in a very reflective mood.
Many of the thoughts I have below are expounded in greater detail in great Advice Posts by other bloggers, so be sure to look for more details there, or let me know if you want more details on any of these topics!
In April 2014 I left my full time engineering job. I was stressed out, burned out, and suffering from nearly constant anxiety and panic attacks. I chose to take a radical leap into unemployment to focus on my mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual well being. Quilting was a hobby that made me feel calm and connected to others, so as part of my new life process I knew that I wanted to find others who could share in that journey with me. I chose to start a blog to find that community and explore more aspects of quilt making. Would anyone read my blog? How did I find others like me? Would it be possible to have an online community of friends? I had so many questions, and I am glad that I found the 2014 New Quilters Blog Hop to help!
Today I blog because I have found a community of mentors and friends online. I blog to get feedback and ideas, to share thoughts and cultivate discussion, and to celebrate milestones big and small. I know others have different reasons for blogging, and I expect that my own reasons and expectations will continue to evolve and change. I look forward to seeing where the journey takes me next.
Part of having a blog is learning what, how, and when to write. When I started my blog, I read so many articles that told me to just be myself, but I honestly did not know exactly what that meant. There was so much that I wasn’t sure about. What is my quilting style? Do I have what enough quilting skills to write a quilting blog? If you are also new to this process, just choose to embrace where you are today. One of the things that has resonated with me the most in the past year are Angela Walters’ quotes, “You are doing your best quilting now,” and “Finished is better than perfect.” The same tenants hold true for blogging. Write a post; give it a shot. I am doing things differently now than I was a year ago, and I expect the same to be true in another year. This blog is a record of that journey, and I am grateful to have it to show my path and growth as a quilter and as a writer.
My writing is not always perfect. I make typos and grammatical errors. I fix them when I notice them or am notified about them (thank you to anyone brave enough to leave a comment and let me know!). I believe there is no shame in a typo. We can never know how a choice changes our life, but I know that I have opportunities and experiences now simply because of my choice to begin writing a blog, and for that I am thankful.
One year ago I was tentatively starting to participate in a few link parties here and there. I tried WiP Wednesday (hosted by Lee @Freshly Pieced) and Sunday Stash (hosted by Molli Sparkles). I did not really know how link parties worked, and joining the 2014 New Quilt Bloggers group really helped me understand the value of commenting on other people’s posts AND responding to those who took the time to comment on my own posts.
In the past year I have found new link parties, a whole awesome new website / tool has been developed by Terri Ann called Quilt Along.net to help introduce you to Quilt Alongs, Block of the Month groups, and link parties, and I have even started my own weekly link party: Quilty Thankful Thursday!
I finally learned how to navigate the WordPress.com comment forms that I received via email. For others on the WordPress platform who might be curious:
When I receive an email notifying me of a comment on my blog, I hit reply to the comment. However, the reply goes back to a WordPress account, not the person who left the comment. I delete the automatic email that appears in the response email To: line, I copy the email of the more information portion of the original email (in this case, email@example.com), and then I paste that into the To: line of the response email. It is a few extra steps, but this allows me to start a private conversation with a reader.
Another tip that I learned about comments from the 2014 New Quilt Bloggers group: use the person’s name! This isn’t something I do all the time, but as you can see in the example email response above, it can be done formally or less formally (I am so glad that this article resonated with you, Example!). This helps create connections and perhaps will kick start a conversation with someone. You never know when you are going to meet your next Quilting Best Buddy!
Following Other Blogs
I had no idea how to follow the blogs of other quilters when I joined the 2014 New Quilt Bloggers group. I quickly learned about Bloglovin’ and Feedly, and it really simplified my life to have a reader feed notify me when I had a new post to check out!
Today I have 600 blog followers through Bloglovin’, WordPress, and Feedly. I have over 700 followers on Instagram. I have over 3,000 “likes” for my Facebook page. A year ago I had less than 50 in all of those categories combined. I don’t count those numbers as true success, though; success is when someone reaches out to comment and interact with me through these forums. I look forward to reading and responding to the comments I receive each morning, and I thank everyone who chooses to be part of my community.
One of the things that I learned about blogging and most frequently take advantage of now is scheduling my posts. For the blog hop last year, we were all asked to have our posts written and ready to publish at a particular time. This helped us all learn how to use the scheduling tools and options in our hosting platform, and I have not looked back. I like to write my posts in advance because it gives me ample opportunity to edit them, and because I can write several posts at a time when I am feeling less creative (typically at night) to free up my time to be creative and sew when I know I do enjoy it. Knowing when particular link parties open can be a way to motivate me to finish a project or write a post.
Another thing that I have learned a lot about in the past year is photography. I was using small images in my blog posts, and I quickly learned through the discussions in the blog hop last year that quilters are a very visual group! We love photos, and there is not need to apologize for a photo heavy post. In fact, I am more inclined to feel the need to apologize to you for the length and wordiness of this post (sorry, not sorry)! So I learned to use larger photos within my posts (around 700 pixels wide if possible), and I have also slowly been learning how to take better photographs of my quilts and process.
Beyond photography, I have also very recently started to use a new (free!) online tool, Canva, to create beautiful collages, Pinterest pinnable call to action images, and lead ins (like the images at the beginning of this post).
Even though having aesthetically pleasing and beautiful blog is a great goal, sometimes I am just so excited, the lighting is so poor, I don’t really have a lot of time, and I just use what I can get. That might not be everyone’s blog plan, but occasionally choosing to keep things a little less crisp is what allows me to write a post and maintain my excitement and enthusiasm for a project. Doing both a project, having beautiful, artful photography, and blogging is not always in the cards (for me). And I have learned that I am OK with that.
Beyond participating in blog events like link parties and blog hops, I would highly encourage you to consider if there are any other quilting related things that would benefit you to join. For example, I joined the Modern Quilt Guild last year. I submitted quilts for consideration to QuiltCon, and even though they were not accepted for the show, I learned a lot about myself as part of the journey and process. I participated in the Foothills Mystery Quilt hosted by Cheryl @Meadow Mist Designs last year, and I looked forward to her monthly instructions. I am also excited to participate in her next mystery quilt that starts today!
I joined the Stash Bee this year and am in Hive 2. It is fun to make a blog for someone else each month! I was fortunate enough to be able to attend QuiltCon2015 in Austin this year, and getting to meet some blog friends in person was a great highlight for me. I have accepted a few mini quilt swaps with other quilters. I have slowly branched out and tried new things and along the way I have found what works and does not work for me. It is all part of the journey, and I encourage you to consider interacting with other quilters in a more personal way, too.
Looking back at all the things I am and have participated in, it is quite a list and seems overwhelming. I did not start doing all of these things at once, and I try to carefully consider if I really have the time and resources before I commit to participating in something like a swap or bee. The same goes for blogging commitments. I try to only do what works for me. Right now that means I am blogging really often, and I am super thankful for everyone who continues to be interested in what I am working on and having to say! 😉
What is Next?
I have learned a lot in the past year, one little bit at a time. I don’t know exactly what is next, but I will continue to learn and grow as a blogger and a quilter. I am exploring sponsorship and have a great group of affiliates that I recommend. I am really enjoying writing patterns, tutorials, and hosting philosophical discussions. I continue to make quilts on commission and sell quilts through my Etsy store. But mostly, I am excited to pull out some fabric, cut it up, and sew it back together. I can’t wait to be inspired by what you are making, too!