Blogging Journey: A Reflection

2015 new quilt bloggers

Journey

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.

OriginalDesignSpring2015Winner

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!

Why Blog?

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.

Writing Style

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.

Link Parties

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!

Comments

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:

wordpress email example

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, example@email.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.

Scheduling Posts

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.

Schedule Blog Post
Schedule Blog Post

Photographs!

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.

Participation

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!

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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!

26 comments

  • I really enjoyed your blog about your progress! Proud of you &
    Your success! Encourages me that it is all about the journey!!!

  • You’ve really made a name for yourself in this blogging community, and I think thats because you do such a good job showing yourself through your writing. It doesn’t hurt that you make such beautiful and thoughtful quilts!

  • Oh my gosh, I hear ya on quilters being visual people! I’ve had a blog for three years now but when I started I was more into healthy living (although I jokingly referred to myself as a food satire blogger.) The healthy living community is all about Twitter and the quilting community is all about Instagram. Instagram is so much more of a “real” medium! What ya see is what ya get, right?

    This is great information for newbies, but what really struck a chord with me was the mention of careful consideration of time and resources. That’s where I burned out on blogging about 9 months ago. I finally had to accept that I had a job . . . a full time stay at home mom . . . and I couldn’t handle another one. The problem with keeping a blog is you have to keep it. It requires constant maintenance and interesting content and dedication to social media. If you step back for too long you have to start from square one again. I realized I can’t handle all of that and decided turning off comments and not engaging in social media was my only means of blogging while still maintaining the mindfulness I so need. I made some great friends from my “food satire” blog and am sad that it will probably be harder to make great quilting friends (and ask quilting questions) on this path, but it is what it is.

    I love photography and am excited to use that passion for quilting as well! Some of my favorite posts lately have been Sunday Stash reports because it’s been fun to take my fabric on a photo shoot while my son plays in the yard. Also, I’ve found that I love my quilts more when I photograph them. I recently completed a flannel tetris quilt for a friend who had a baby. A quilt top I started seven months ago when I first found out she was pregnant. It was one of my first pieced tops and flannel is stretchy so it has some clear imperfections. But after I took pretty pretty pictures on the woodpile and fence I was smitten. I’m glad that the photography aspect of blogging can help me love my work even as I learn.

    I’m ever so thankful for bloggers like you, who have the time and knowledge to share with us who don’t. So keep on keeping on and I am rooting for you to achieve all your quilty dreams!

  • Congratulations, Yvonne! Not only for your win in the original design category (But seriously, CONGRATS on that! A well deserved win!!) but also on the success of your blog. I know you work hard at it and are a very active member of this community and that fact shines here on your blog! You do amazing work and it really has been fun watching you blossom over this past year!

  • You just have such a way with words and expressing yourself, what a beautiful post and a great look back at the last year. I am so happy that I was able to connect with you over blogland and in real life. Thanks for the mystery quilt plug too!

  • Yvonne, your blog is one of my favorites, and I think the reason why is because your posts are so heartfelt. You really put yourself out there. You put so much thought and consideration into what you have to say, and I really appreciate that. As a “quiet” person who doesn’t have much to say, I admire others who are so articulate. Much of what you’ve said you’ve learned in the last year are the same things I’ve learned too, but I’m not so good at putting them into words. Thank you.
    PS – Congrats on winning viewers choice for your transparency quilt! I love the design and I voted for it.

  • Congratulations on the win! Very exciting news! You have come a long way baby!!! I’m in awe! If I had an ounce of your writting/blogging talent I would be happy! I’m excited to start the New Bloggers Blog Hop and can’t wait to learn from you and the other talented hosts!

  • I have always admired your style, both in quilting and in words. I recently started following your blog and I am not disappointed one bit. I look forward to seeing what you’re creating and the words of expression that goes along with it. The information you provide is so helpful and I always look back to reference it. Please don’t change the way you do things too much, I enjoy your blog and all it entails very much. Thank you for keeping things real and for sharing your time with quilters like me. You keep me excited and wanting to try new things. Bravo and I look forward to your next chapter.

  • What a beautiful year of growth and Quilt fellowship and healing you have had Yvonne. So much of what you wrote here resonated with me too.
    It is funny the you wrote about learning to create Pinterest pinnable call to action images, because I pinned your first picture as soon as I read the wonderful quote. 🙂
    Here is to a beautiful blogging future!

  • Thanks so much for this post Yvonne. How you describe yourself a year ago is how I would describe myself now. I’m excited to be participating in the new bloggers blog hop this year. I’ve learned a few things in the past year just by trial and error.So it’s great to be able to learn from your experience and that of the others in the group.

  • Congratulations on the win, Yvonne! You certainly deserve it 🙂 Great post, too. It’s amazing what can come from the choice to start a blog, isn’t it? My husband recently told me he’s really glad I started mine because he loves how I have opened up through it. I’m so glad I started it because of the quilting friends I’ve made!

  • Thanks for a great post. I started a blog earlier this year and you’ve addressed all my self-doubt! Congratulations on the win in BQF!

  • Congratulations on the triangle transparency win, I saw the results yesterday and did a little happy whoop when I read your name! And congratulations on an amazing year too, I think you’ve very much found your voice in your blogging, and clearly, on top of lots of quilty and bloggy success the biggest win has got to be a health win. How you describe your health a year ago is pretty scary, and how your well being comes through in your writing now is great to read. Here’s to enjoying following along with your journey over the coming years too.

  • Firstly well done on The Transparency Quilt award, a great achievement. And, thank you for an interesting blog post. I enjoy the actual writing process, I love words and I love the interaction with other and the tentative virtual friendships I am making. I love the quote “Finished is Better Than Perfect”, I must put that into practice. And …. my scheduled posts never schedule, so looking forward to correcting that!

  • I’m so glad we met through last year’s hop. I enjoyed reading your reflection. It is always fun to see how we have grown and changed over time. This was also very informative. I still need to figure out a couple things you mentioned.

    And a big congrats on your win! You totally deserve it.

  • Congrats on winning for your Triangle Transparency quilt. It was very worthy. This is such a great post and I consider my participation in last year’s new bloggers series to have been invaluable, especially the online friendships that I’ve made. And even though I don’t comment on every post of yours, I do read them all!

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)