I’m happy to have my friend Elita here today to show you how to be more organised.  I seriously need to be more organised about things, so I might have to invest in a whiteboard and post-its PDQ!  Anyway, anyone that runs as many businesses as Elita, including the fabulous Patchwork In The Peaks, must have great advice!  BTW, there’s 2 spaces left on the next Peaks if anyone’s interested!

Quilter's Kanban Tutorial

Hello Everyone! I’m Elita, from Busy Needle Quilting. I’m thrilled to be a part of the Finish Along 2014 Tutorial lineup. A big thanks to Katy & you for having me! For those who don’t know me, I’ve got a few irons in the fire. I am a longarm quilter, I host semi-annual alpine quilt retreats, I teach classes on anything patchwork, and I’m part of a number of online bees. Oh, and I have an “Other Job” working 80% in an IT department.

With all this going on, I need organisation. I’m not saying I always have it but I need it. Wanting a better system than endless lists made me life-hack a method we use in my “Other Job” in an IT department for project management called kanban.

Last month I did a post for Angela Walters on my Quilter’s Kanban board that I use to help organise my tasks. Most people can reasonably handle 3-4 projects simultaneously. Multi-tasking sounds nice but the research shows that in fact, when you go above this number, your effectiveness drops by 20% for each additional project

Today I’m here to show you how to get started on your own Quilter’s Kanban. Note that this method can be applied to any number of creative activities that you do. This is what worked for me so take as much or as little as will suit your own QK.  You’re not going to need loads of specialty items either. Just plain paper, whiteboard, markers, and coloured post-it notes.

The very basic kanban board has 3 columns: To Do, WiPs & Done. Since I have multiple creative endeavours going on in different stages, I couldn’t fit my tasks into those 3 columns & still keep track easily. I needed more specific value streams in order to accurately reflect each grouping. A value stream is simply a list of the steps you take to get each task completed. I started with a few pieces of plain paper. On each, I wrote down the activity I wanted to track and did a simple little mind-mapping to show the very basic steps needed to complete them. Such as this:


You don’t have to do it really fancy as this is the draft. The idea is to “map” the basic steps you need to get from Start to Finish. Keep these steps as simple as possible. Once I did this for each of the activities, I began to organise them on a whiteboard. I sectioned things out in a way that made sense to me, keeping it simple. I used coloured Post-It notes to indicate the different tasks which also helps me to easily see the status of each task. Here is my board:

OK3-board only

PINK – Quilts that I am working on. My limit is 4, though you can see that I have more in the “Basket”. I can change them out as it suits me. I like to print out a small resolution picture of the quilt top because I am a visually stimulated person & this helps keep me interested.

GREEN & YELLOW – I’m in a number of Virtual Quilt Bees. I have a post-it for each Bee. GREEN signifies that the fabric is being supplied by the Queen Bee of the month. YELLOW means I have to use my stash. I write the months (abbreviated) & the Flickr name of the person doing that month, crossing off each as they are done & returning them to the starting point.

ORANGE – BOM (Block of the Month) For this I write the months, abbreviated, & cross off as completed.

BLUE – Means Blog. I have further written Mon-Wed-Fri on them so I know which day I might be working on.

This is set up in a prominent place in my quilting area so I can see at a glance what I might have time to do. As each portion of the task is completed, I move it to the next box. The physical act of moving the post-it is surprisingly motivating. Sometimes there are more things ready than are able to proceed. Because I used different colours, I can see where I might have a bottle-neck forming. Such as in the BEES row, I have the fabric (either sent to me or sourced within my stash) for three blocks. Now I just need to move one to the Being Sewn box & get started!

Kanban is fluid so you can always change it if a part is no longer needed or isn’t working well for you. When I finish a project, I can then put that into my notebook of completed projects. It’s then easy to see that I have been busy DOING something! 🙂 I use similar methods to track tasks for my retreats and variations of it have worked with my kids as well because the prioritising is visual. This doesn’t mean I don’t have lists. It just gives me a visual way to see how it can move from Start to Finish and that motivates me to get it done.

I hope that this has given you some ideas on how to organise your own Quilter’s Kanban. Give it a go and see how easy it is!

Happy Quilting!