Episode 343: How is the Happiness Project going?

Helen Stewart, Curious Handmade, sits on a grey sofa, working on a knitting project in grey yarn. Helen wears a pale pink dress and is sitting so her face is in profile wwith her hair obsuring some of her face

With more year behind us than there is ahead of us, I’m doing an in-depth review of my Happiness Project goals. How my personal creative projects are coming along, what I’ve been working on, and what I might let go this year. Pour yourself something lovely to sip and sit down with your favourite project: this week’s podcast episode is long and chatty!

Show Sponsors

Meadow Yarn; Anj is the heart, mind, and hand behind Meadow Yarn. She spends her days dying yarn and telling stories in the Suffolk countryside. The regular hand dyed shades you’ll find in their online shop are influenced by the surrounding landscape, the north sea coast, and the big skies overhead. For an extra dose of imagination with your knitting, Anj also releases her limited edition yarn fictions from time to time. These capsule yarn collections are inspired by her original short stories. You can download them and read along as you knit. As well as their own label, Hand Dyed Yarn, Meadow Yarn also stocks some of Anj’s personal favorite wools and supplies, Icelandic Lopi, Hazel Knits, KnitPro needles and notions, Eucalan wool wash, and arrange of inspirational journals and magazines. You can find them at meadowyarn.co.uk.

Find all your favourite luxury yarns and discover plenty more at A Yarn Story, Bath’s premier yarn store based in Walcot Street, Bath, UK. From gorgeous skeins by The Fibre Co and Walcot Yarns to a fine selection from Shibui Knits, La Bien Aimée, House of a la Mode, and Julie Asselin, there is plenty for the discerning knitter to enjoy. With friendly and knowledgeable staff to help you browse, there is plenty for the discerning knitter to enjoy. Visit the store at Walcot Street, Bath or shop online at www.ayarnstory.co.uk.

Show Links:

The Happier Podcast with Gretchen Rubin and Elizabeth Craft

#thehappinessproject on Instagram

#happierpodcast on Instagram

Liberty Fabrics 

The Strawberry Thief

SIMPLE by Ottolenghi

Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud

Oprah’s Book Club 

Reese Witherspoon’s Book Club 

Píosa Cardigan by Renée Callahan     

My own design The Habitation Throw

Panda Bear Kit (Kit by The Barrett Wool Co. and pattern by  Susan B. Anderson

Sadie Souris Kit (Kit by Wild and Woolly and pattern by Cinthia Vallet.)         

Buderim Concert Band

Daintree Rainforest 

Jeni Baker Patterns   / @jenib320 on Instagram

O’Reilly’s Retreat inLamington National Park

Buderim Craft Cottage 

The Shawl Society 5

Can’t believe The Shawl Society 5 is already halfway;  The Curling Mist Shawl , The Silver River Shawl  and now The Wild Bees Wrap are all now with 3 more mystery shawl patterns to follow each month until October 

The Shawl Society 5 on Gumroad 

The Shawl Society 5 on Ravelry  

#tss5  and theshawlsociety5 on Instagram

The Wild Bees Wrap sample was knit in Merino Silk Yak by Natural Fibre Arts

Huge thanks to my brilliant (and speedy) sample knitter & test knitter Wendy  @wendeecut1er 

Thanks also to my talented test knitters Tracy @comfyredcouch &  Deb @tinkhickman  

The Shawl Society 5 Finished Object Threads 

Curling Mist Shawl FO Thread will run until August 1st, 2021

Silver River Shawl FO Thread will run until September 1st, 2021

Keep an eye out for The Wild Bees Wrap FO Thread on the Curious Handmade Discussion Board on Ravelry 

The Handmade Sock Society 4

All 6 patterns have now been released for The Handmade Sock Society 4 ;  The Curling Mist Socks, The Picnic Blanket Socks , The Wild Bees Socks ,  The Spinifex Socks, The Lavender Fields Socks and The Scribbly Gum Socks  are all available now.  Don’t worry if you’ve not signed up yet, you can join in anytime!

The Handmade Sock Society 4 on Ravelry

The Handmade Sock Society 4 on Gumroad 

#thehandmadesocksociety on Instagram

#thss4 on Instagram

#thehandmadesocksociety4 on Instagram

The Handmade Sock Society 4 Finished Object Threads 

The Lavender Fields Socks FO Thread will run until August 1st,2021

The Scribbly Gum Socks FO Thread  will run until September 1st, 2021 

Knit 20 for 2021 KAL

Join in with the Knit 20 for 2021 KAL by sharing your finished object photos here in the July FO Thread  on Ravelry  

You can also enter on Instagram with the hashtag #knit20for2021 and don’t forget to nominate a local yarn shop or indie dyer in case you win!

For more information on how the monthly knitalong works and how to enter, visit this page for all the details.

Knit 20 for 2021 Toy KAL

I need your support and encouragement to help me tick the ‘toy’ prompt off my knit202for2021 list, so I’ve decided to add this pop-up event to the regular  #knit20for2021 KAL. There are prizes to be won and so much cuteness to come.  

The rules are simple:

Free Curious Handmade Workshops

Simply Curious Socks: Free Beginner Sock Knitting Pattern & Workshop 

The Spindrift Shawl: Free Beginner Shawl Knitting Pattern & Workshop

Join the Curious Handmade Group on Ravelry for  new pattern announcements, KALs, support and questions for patterns and any other fun things that come up, and join our Curious Crew Newsletter at the link below

Show transcript:

Welcome to the Curious Handmade Podcast. You’re listening to episode 343. This podcast is all about crafting a life of happiness and creativity. I’m your host, Helen. And you can find me on Ravelry as HellsBells and on social media as Curious Handmade. You can also find full show notes and transcript on my website at curioushandmade.com. I’d like to thank my sponsor A Yarn Story.

Hello and welcome to the show this week. I hope you’ve been having a great week. I mentioned last week that I was doing a little bit of a mid-year review and taking stock of my various goals and projects. And so this week I thought I would share with you a little bit of a review of my 2021 Happiness Project.

At the beginning of the year, I made a 21 for 2021 Happiness Project inspired by the Happier Podcast by Gretchen Rubin and her sister Liz Craft. And they recently did a review of their Happiness Projects halfway through the year. And so I thought I would do the same thing. I personally find it really interesting to hear about what other people are doing in this regard. And I also enjoy the review episodes. I think, I don’t know if they’ve done a mid-year review before. Usually, they do a review at the sort of end of the year, but I was quite happy to listen to their mid-year review of how they’re going as well.

And I always find it quite amusing because Gretchen, who’s the more A-type ex-lawyer and is an upholder in her framework of personality types and is always ticking everything off and on track to complete her goals, and her sister Liz, I think, is an obliger and is much more of a creative type and is usually going through her list saying, “No, I didn’t do that. No, I didn’t do that.” So it’s quite nice to have that balance and also quite reassuring to have Liz balancing out Gretchen’s A-type disciple.

So going through my list, it’s a little bit of both. So without further ado, I will talk you through my list of Happiness Projects for this year. I’m just going to go through them in the order that I have them written. I think I kind of organised them somewhat at the beginning of the year thinking about when they would happen, sort of what order they might happen in. Some are ongoing throughout the whole year and some are one-off projects.

So the first one I have is simplify stuff. So last year, I did a one-off project of decluttering 1,000 items, which was really fun and really satisfying. And I thought I might do that again this year, but I haven’t really had the time or bandwidth to do such a big project because that took me about a month of quite intensive work to do that. This year, instead, I’ve been taking the peeling-the-onion approach, which is to regularly take small areas or things that I see that could be done in a small amount of time or a small amount of things to deal with and making it a more consistent, ongoing approach. That’s been fairly effective, although it’s a little bit frustrating because it never feels done or complete. But I think taking that approach is better than nothing. And it’s enabled me to feel relatively organised around the house.

I think in the last half of the year, I would like to do a more of a purge-style declutter and to feel like I’m getting deeper into it again. But we’ll see how we go. I don’t really have a specific goal for this point, so maybe if I make a specific goal that might help to know when I can tick it off. At the moment, I have things coded as light green for something that’s in progress that I’ve started or that it’s ongoing, and then I have dark green for if it’s completed and just white if it hasn’t started yet. So this is light green, and I need to figure out what I need to do to make it dark green.

The next item on the list is hexie quilt project. I have subscribed to an ongoing monthly subscription with the Strawberry Thief, which is a Liberty specialist fabric store here in Australia. And each month I get a pack of cards and fabric to make hexies, which is an English paper piecing quilting method. And I subscribe to both the one-inch and two-inch sizes of subscription. And recently I took stock of both of these projects and decided that if I just focused on the two-inch size, I might be able to complete a quilt top this year. So I calculated that to make enough flowers to make a queen-sized quilt, I could make 12 a month and then I would have enough by the end of December.

So I managed to do that in June. I did 12 in June. And this month, I didn’t get off to a very quick start, but I’m hoping to catch up by the end of the month and still have 12 flowers made. I think they take me about an hour and a half now to make a two-inch flower. So that’s a decent amount of time to dedicate. But I can do that while I’m watching a video or waiting for kids to do a sporting thing, something like that. So I can fit it in into the margins quite easily if I think of it and if I think to take it with me. So that’s light green. That’s happening and I think I’ll just consider that done at the end of the year regardless of where I’m up to because I just put hexie quilt project, in brackets progress. And so I’ve definitely made progress on it already and will continue to do so for the rest of the year hopefully.

Number three is Friday me time/weekend fun projects. So this was about kind of trying to manage my work-life balance a little bit better. Because I work from home and work for myself, my hours are very flexible and that can be a little bit of a problem. It’s a huge, huge benefit, and I really appreciate that aspect of my work. One of the best things about having my own business is being able to manage my work around my family, but it does mean that I feel like I’m working all the time even when I’m not actually working all the time.

So this one is still white. I think, so my intention was to make it basically do all my work Monday to Thursday in school hours and then have Friday to do some things for me and the weekends for basically family time and hopefully a little bit of time for me to do my own projects. I think partly it hasn’t happened because we had about a month of illness and then that rolled into COVID restrictions and general disruption and also school holidays. So I think I just need to put some more thought into this and just work on creating those boundaries a little bit more focused and committed.

Something that has improved a lot this year is not working into the evenings. I used to put the kids to bed and then come back to my desk for a couple of hours. And this year, I’ve been focusing on various health habits and my current habit is working on getting eight hours sleep a night. And so I’ve changed my evening routine quite significantly in that I’ll put the kids to bed and then go to bed myself and not go back to my desk. So that has made a huge difference in the evenings. And it’s generally good. It’s making me realise that I wasn’t necessarily that productive in the evenings because I’m not really getting less work done. I’m just, I am getting a bit more done during the day. And it’s taken me a while to get to that point where what I can get done in the day is making up for what I got done in the evenings, if that makes sense.

So there was a bit of a period where my productivity did dip, but now that I’m getting better sleep and having more energy in the mornings, that’s back, sort of balancing out. So I guess that change is really significant and sort of goes towards my intention of having better boundaries around work. So I don’t know if I can really count that. It’s still not really my intention to have days where I’m not working. But anyway, we’ll get there. And I think this is a step in the right direction.

The next item is five new yummy recipes. And I started the year reasonably strong with that one. But it hasn’t been enough focus for a couple of months now. So it’s kind of stalled. I had the corn bread recipe, which is such a good recipe, I need to make that again, from SIMPLE by Ottolenghi, and then a slow cooker veggie curry. And I can’t even remember where I found that recipe. I think it might’ve been online actually. Hopefully, I printed it out, that I can find it again because that was a really good one. And then so three to go and still very doable to achieve this by the end of the year. So I need to just find three more yummy recipes.

A girls outing once a month. This has been another one that has not really been such an area of focus. I have achieved a couple of girls outings, I think, this year. I went to the movies last month with my sister and some of her friends. And I think we’ve done a couple of other things. And I also have a trip to a plant shop planned with a new mum friend. So that can be this month’s outing.

So yeah, that’s definitely a partial. And I think that’ll be one of those ones where I don’t really fully achieve the whole 12 outings because I’ve already missed some months. So it’s not really technically possible to tick that one off as completed 100%. But I think just having it there is bringing a little bit of awareness to it and making me think about it a bit more and to try and organise a few fun girls nights out, that kind of thing. And that also supports my word for the year, which is connect. So a few of these Happiness Projects have been deliberately put on the list because of that word for the year. And that’s one of them.

Number six is tend house plant family. So this is something that was on my list last year and is continuing this year. I think I’ve realised that it gave me a lot of happiness, so I thought I would continue it this year. And this year my house plant habit has escalated. And I just counted how many house plants I have now. And I actually have 80 and that includes quite a few propagations. So I have really been enjoying keeping them alive for the most part. I’ve lost a couple, but not too bad, which feels like a big improvement for me. I’ve kind of figured out watering schedules and where they like to be in the house for the most part. They’re not all completely happy and thriving, but they’re doing okay. They’re surviving and some are thriving.

We started making propagations from some of them, and so that’s been really fun. I’ve made some propagations from my Monstera Adansonii. And my friend gave me quite a bit of some Golden Pothos from her garden, as well as some succulents from her garden. So I cut that up into lots of little pieces and propagated lots of them. And so I’ve been experimenting with that, which has been fun. So I’d say there’s probably about, I don’t know, maybe 20 or more that are, well probably more, maybe about 30 that are propagations. So I’m really enjoying watching YouTube videos about caring for plants and propagating them and yeah, learning more about that art. And I think where I live, it’s a subtropical climate, and so certain plants really thrive and that’s quite satisfying. So that’s been quite a fun new hobby.

Number seven is book club. And this is another connection item on the list. And a book club is with my mum friends in the UK, in London, and we try and meet up somewhat regularly for a Zoom book club chat. It’s a little bit difficult because one of us has moved from London to New Zealand, and I’m in Australia and the others are still in the UK. So time zones are a little bit of an issue, but it’s been a really lovely way to keep in touch.

And the last book that we read that I don’t think we’ve had a Zoom to discuss yet is Love After Love by Ingrid Persaud. And this was a really lovely book. It was quite emotional. And I would really recommend it. It’s one of those books that stays with you for quite some time after you read them. And I won’t say more than that because I don’t want to create spoilers. But yeah, really recommend Love After Love.

One of our challenges has been to find books to read and we have looked at book club lists from people like Oprah and Reese Witherspoon [who] have book clubs. If anyone has any recommended places to get ideas for book club books, I would love to hear them. We’ve had patchy success in finding good books to read. So yes, we’d love to hear any recommendations of specific books or sources to find good recommendations.

Number eight was Finish GROW embroidery. And yes, I did that. I still need to sort of finish the back and hang it. I’m going to just display it in the hoop that I used to make it. And I need to do that. But I’ve basically ticked this one off. That was really satisfying to complete.

Number nine is finish three personal knitting WIPs. And I’m super happy to say that this has been ticked off. I had my Píosa Cardigan, Sadie Souris mouse toy, and Habitation Throw on a list of things that I wanted to finish. And so I’ve substituted Bear, which is a pattern by Susan B. Anderson for Sadie Souris. So yes, I’ve completed all three.

I have a currently ongoing knit-along for knitting a toy and it’s #knit20for2021toy. I decided to host a knit-along for this prompt on my Knit 20 for 2021 Challenge, and I’m very happy to say it was successful to have that accountability. I really, really wanted to be able to tick off the toy prompt on the challenge this year. And yes, was able to finish my bear kit. I had the kit to make the bear pattern from Barrett Wool Co., which is Susan B. Anderson’s yarn company. And I still would like to at least start my Sadie Souris kit as well. So there’s one week of the knit-along to go, and I’ll do a more in-depth update on this in a couple of weeks to let you know how that turned out. But as far as my Happiness Project goes, I am ticking this one off and am very, very happy about that, to be taking that off halfway through the year.

Number 10 is try band. And by that I meant the Buderim Concert Band that my dad was a member of and had been trying to get me to join at the beginning of the year. I thought I’ll go along and see what it’s like and really, really loved it from the first time I went to one of their practices. And so not only did I try it, I joined it. And so that one is ticked off and is also a big tick for my connection word of the year as well, so that’s really nice.

Number 11 is a project with Lexi. I’ve got in brackets Easter. That didn’t happen. But I am thinking that she really, really loves holidays and festivities, festive moments. Halloween is her absolute favourite. And so I think maybe I will have in mind to try and help her with her Halloween costume. And that might be our project that we work on together.

We do have a little bit of a project happening with the plants. She wanted to grow plants to plant in the rainforest, in the Amazon actually. And then after we went to the Daintree Rainforest in North Queensland at Easter, I said, “Why don’t we grow plants and sell them, and then donate that money to the Daintree Rainforest?” Because a lot of it isn’t protected. I thought it was protected as a national park, but it’s not. Significant areas of it are subdivided for people to build houses.

And so there’s a charity, there’s a couple of charities, but there’s a particular charity that is focused on buying back blocks from private owners and developers, and then having it managed by the local indigenous group that is based up there, that it’s their country, and so they then manage the land. And so I feel like that’s a great charity to contribute to. I’ve been contributing to their buyback projects since we went up there and I found out about this. And so, yes, so we have been doing a little bit of a project together to grow plants. But I have been a lot more focused on it than she has. We haven’t really been spending a lot of time on it together. So I’m not ticking that one off just yet.

Number 12 is finish my House’s quilt. That is light green. I did a little bit of progress on this earlier in the year. It’s been just sitting to one side for a couple of months now. And it’s still very possible to get this done this year. I just need to dedicate a little bit of time to it.

Number 13 is two writer’s retreats with my sister. I kind of know why we call them writer’s retreats. But we are now planning a sewing holiday in a couple of weeks actually. We have booked an Airbnb very close to where we live and are planning to work on some sewing projects. So I might actually combine that with my House’s quilt top. And also, I’m thinking about some clothes that I’d like to sew as well. So I’m going to be preparing for that little getaway, sewpalooza that we’ll have coming up in a couple of weeks. And I think that will probably tick off that item.

Number 14 is Lexi’s first year album. She’s turned 10 this year, and I carefully made Sophie, firstborn child, a beautiful photo album of her first year shortly after she turned one. Lexi, being the second child, it has not happened yet. But I have curated the photos and now I need it to do a quick edit of them and upload them to the album-making website. I bought a voucher earlier in the year. I think it was a new year sale, and I bought vouchers to make two albums. That’s expiring in about two weeks, so I have to do this and one other album in the next two weeks to make use of those vouchers, which were quite expensive. So I think that’s going to happen. I’m part of the way there, and I have a very good motivation deadline to do it.

Number 15 is four biz retreats with one of my good friends. We have actually done two, been away twice for two weekends to catch up, which has been awesome. I’m not sure if we will manage four. I’d be happy with two or three. And so that’s at least partially completed and has been really, really nice to reconnect with one of my beautiful university friends.

Number 16 is a bush-walk. Last year, I had a bush-walk with my family, and this year I downgraded any expectations to just a bushwalk by myself because it is a little bit of a struggle to get my family to do certain things sometimes, which is fine. So I thought, okay, I’m just going to do it by myself. But we had an opportunity very recently to do this. So instead of going down to Sydney and watching Hamilton like we were planning to do on the school holidays, that got cancelled thanks to COVID, and so we decided to go somewhere relatively local. So we went to O’Reilly’s where I had a knitting retreat last year and we just had a family weekend up there. It’s in Lamington National Park, which is a beautiful national park in the Gold Coast Hinterland. It’s up in the mountains. It was quite cold and just beautiful and crisp, and the air was so fresh.

And so I told my family, “I would love to go for a bushwalk with you and do this for one of my Happiness Projects.” So they got on board and we did a short walk and everybody really enjoyed it and I really enjoyed it and it was lovely. So I’m kind of hoping that might plant the seed to do more in the future. It would be really great if we could do that from time to time because it’s something I really love to do. And yes, so I’m really, really thrilled to be able to tick that one off. So in a way I have COVID to thank for getting that Happiness Project done. It’s good to be flexible, right?

Number 17 is celebrate a friend’s 50th. This is coming up in August. We booked a trip months ago. My friend lives in New South Wales. Sydney is the capital of New South Wales. And if you have been listening to any news about Australia, you will know that that’s having a tough time with COVID and is locked down. And I can’t travel to New South Wales at the moment. So I don’t think that’s going to change in the next month probably. So that one is looking a little bit precarious. But we will find a way to celebrate at some point. It just might not be the plans that she had made in August, which is a little bit sad, but I’m not going to think about that just yet.

Number 18 is grade five flute exam. And when I made this list at the beginning of the year, I think I put grade six flute, but discovered that the system here in Australia is tougher than just the one I was doing in the UK. So I had done grade five in London just before we left. But grade five here is more like grade six there, if that makes sense. So I’ve had to sort of downgrade myself being on the AMEB system, which is fine. Mentally it’s a little bit discouraging, but actually it’s absolutely fine. But yeah, I think even grade five here is probably tougher than grade six in the UK system. There are a lot of scales to learn.

So I’m working on that, making slow progress. I haven’t found the time I need to practise. So this one will probably roll over to next year. I don’t think I’m going to be prepared to do an exam in September, October this year, which is when they would be. So that is a light green. I am working on it. I’m preparing, but I don’t think it’s going to be ticked off this year, which is fine.

And then finally, we have number 19, which is Vlogmas with Sophie. That’s going to happen in December. And also make a 2021 album. And that will happen in December as well. Last year, I made a 2020 album in the liminal week between Christmas and the new year and decided I would make that a tradition based on doing it for one year. I think if I can do that going forward, I will have made a ritual and a nice time to make a family album for the year. I have had on my to-do list for about 10 years to make annual family albums and it’s never happened. And then last year when I made that specific time to do it, it happened and it was very exciting. And so I think going forward, I will probably do that. Anyway, that’s just something that’s coming up.

But I have realised looking at this list that I haven’t been very good at taking photos of anything this year. And I think it’s kind of been because we’ve mostly just been at home and haven’t really been doing much in the why of special trips or events. And so I need to think about that a little bit and either be better at taking photos of just little day-to-day moments or create some events or photograph-worthy moments or record-worthy moments. So I think I’ll sort of think about that a little bit for the next half of the year.

And then I think this is one that I added on after I made my initial list, which is number 21. And that is quilt group with mum. And I have joined the Thursday night quilt group at the Buderim Craft Cottage and have been going along to that. It’s been a little bit patchy when I was not well, and then COVID and certain things happening. But yeah, I’ve joined, officially joined, become a member of the Buderim Craft Cottage and am going somewhat regularly to the Thursday night stitch sessions. And that’s been really lovely. It’s a lovely group of women and very, very talented quilters and crafters, sewists. You know, typically of people that are into making quilts, a lot of them are into a lot of different crafts as well. You know, I’ve seen people bring their knitting projects, crochet, applique, and I know that they do a lot of other crafts as well. So it’s very much a like-minded group of people and women that is really nice to connect with and is another thing that’s supporting my word for the year.

So that’s taken me a little bit longer than I thought it might to go through that. I hope it’s been somewhat interesting. And thank you if you’re still with me. I would love to know if you are doing a Happiness Project and how you’re going with it. I have really enjoyed doing my Happiness Projects for the last few years, and it’s also quite satisfying to review them and see where you’re at. And I think this time of year is a great time to review them because you still have time to think about whether you can still tick certain things off and maybe decide that you’re not going to do certain things and either replace it with other things that might make you more happy or just decide to do a bit less this year. So thanks for joining me for a chat about that.

Before I sign off, I’d like to thank my sponsor Meadow Yarn. 

And also, just a reminder that if you are participating in the Knit 20 for 2021 toy knit-along that I’m hosting, you have a week to post your finished object on either Instagram or in the Ravelry thread. And we will have a $50 voucher from a yarn dyer or local yarn store of your choice for both the Ravelry thread and people who’ve posted on Instagram. So make sure that you’d post any finished toy objects by the end of July.

Have a great week. Happy knitting. And I’ll talk to you soon.

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