Posted in WIP Limits

Musings on WIP limits 

My husband sat down to watch Flosstube with me while I was stitching last week.  After about 3 videos he asked, “Don’t these people ever finish anything? All they talk about is their purchases and new starts.”  This got me thinking about Agile again.  I was thinking about the concept of one and done and WIP limits. 

In Agile we have the concept of one and done because it’s better to have 1 completed project than four half finished items. With stitching however, I used to start all the things and lose interest.  At one point, I had over 100 started projects.  Lots of stitching was going on but no finished projects were occurring.  

I think at that point, I was much like the IT guys in the Phoenix project.  I had no clue how many projects I had to finish, what needed to be done on them and what the status was. I made a pile of all the started work and added it to a spreadsheet.  Columns were Name of piece, Designer, stitch count, and what needed to be done next. 

I found that a few needed to be frogged, a couple were missing a skein of floss but the majority needed to be backstitched.  This is when I learned, I need to backstitch as I go instead of saving it to the end.  If I save it to the end, I give up and don’t finish.  Compiling the list not only allowed me to see everything that needed to be completed, it allowed me to prioritize and to change my process. 

When I had the huge list of WIP’s I also knew that I could use my competitive nature to my advantage and I challenged someone who I knew completed a lot of pieces to a challenge.  The first to finish 100 pieces would get a prize from the other.   Several other people joined us and although I didn’t win, I was able to complete 100 projects in just under 3 years.  Now my “backlog” of started pieces sits at about 36.  My husband would like me to whittle is down to about 10 – 3 cross-stitch, 1 piecing, 2 quilting, 1 weaving, 1 embroidery and 3 needlepoint canvases and I think I tend to agree with him.  I hear some of you saying – but what about 1 and done?  I know my stitching style well enough to know that 10 hours is the maximum amount of time I can put into a piece before it stops being relaxing and fun.  If I work on something else for 10 to 15 hours inbetween then the piece I put aside become new and fun again.  

So why don’t I limit myself to 3 pieces and rotate?  Because I have different fiber hobbies I enjoy and sometime I need a quick finish.  Therefore the Needlepoint and Cross-stitch pieces are Small, Medium and Large pieces.  It the time it takes to finish a Large piece, I can finish several small pieces and 1.5 medium pieces.  If I concentrated on only completing large pieces, I would probably give up stitching because although I would see progress, I would never see a completion.

Think about it in the workplace, when you have a large project it gets broken into smaller stories.  My large pieces get broken into smaller stories for the rotation as I’ve discussed before.  By doing it this way I still get things finished but I also enjoy my hobby by not getting too bored with the piece I’m working on at the time.  My hat goes off to those who can work on one piece at a time without getting bored or frustrated.  In the meantime, I’ll keep working on small stories prioritized in my backlog. 

Posted in Agile, Hobbies, Retrospective

Committing to free time…

I’ve discovered an issue with running my hobbies in a sprint.  When we commit to work in the sprint, we have an estimate of how much time there is available to work on our goals. The problem with doing this in a hobby setting though is I have no guarantee of how much free time I will have available in the time period of the sprint.

Planning for a sprint should take into account if team members will be out for planned absences.  It should take holidays and non-working days into account. The team should commit to what they can complete in the sprint.  If you are in the habit of carrying stories over or breaking stories into development work and testing then the sprints either need to be longer or the stories need to become smaller.  Think about slicing them smaller.

Since I’m looking at committing free time, I’m beginning to realize I either need to plan my time better so I have more free time or I need to take into account the other calls to my free time like the kids, dogs and family.  It may be that instead of running sprints, I need to just apply a kanban board.  A kanban prioritizes what needs to be done but doesn’t have a time commitment with it.  What a kanban does show is who is working on what.  Where I’m a team of one, I know what I’m working on but a Kanban can help me keep focused and keep track of deadlines.

A kanban board lists the stories in priority order.  As you work on the stories, they move from not started to in progress, to be verified and completed. Only one story is worked on at a time, it gets started and worked on until it is finished. When one story is completed, you pick up the next priority on the board and work on it until completed.

This does leave me with a dilemma, I have a goal to finish the corner on TidePools but I have a T-shirt quilt class and need to prep the shirts before next class.  That leads us to prioritization which I’ll talk about next time.

Posted in CrossStitch, Planning, Quilting

How to estimate story points

Story points are an estimate of effort.  This does not mean that they are an estimate of time.  And they do not tie to speed.  A great definition of why Scrum teams use story points is told by Mike Cohn on his blog Mountain Goat Software.

To me story points are an estimate of difficulty to complete the story I’m describing.  For example, blackwork on the wings of Overdyed Dragon is easier to me that 1000 stitches in Autumn Queen.  And both of those are simpler than the confetti or specialty stitches in any Theresa Wentzler piece.

Now embroidering the names on the Dr. Who quilt may seem easy to some but since I hyperextended my thumb last summer, it’s a painful process for me so gets ranked as a harder story.  Backstitching is in a similar boat, if I’ve left it to last, it’s a tedious process and I’m likely to find other things that need more doing like washing the dogs or cleaning my closet. If I’m rearranging the closet you know I’m putting something off.

Hopefully this explains how I do my story points.  You may find confetti stitching more enjoyable than beading so you might rank a TW under a Mirabilia.  When you are a sprint team of one, it doesn’t matter as much as if you were trying to get the whole family to decide if ironing is more difficult that vacuuming or mopping the kitchen.

If you were doing this type of ranking for household chores;  you would line your cards up and have the family rank the difficulty from easiest to hardest and then agree on a fibonacci sequence of points.  Points are not supposed to be tied to anything tangible like time but for household chores, you could base allowance amounts on the difficulty.  That way kids earn allowance instead of getting it as a freebie.   It also teaches them the value of work.

In the long run, like with Whose Line is it Anyway?  points don’t matter, what matters is that the work gets done.  The stakeholders like it.  And you’re ready to go to market which in the crafting world, it’s ready for me to display somewhere.



Posted in Agile, CrossStitch, Hobbies, Planning, Quilting

Planning for Sprint 1 – May 22 through June 19

During a sprint we commit to completing stories.  Stories are pieces of a full feature that can be delivered during the time period.  I used Stitch May-nia to get a baseline on several of my pieces which are close to being finished.

This sprint includes the last week of May and the plans for this week are to get a baseline on Dragon Ride, Crafter’s Paradise, Dimensions Pegasus, Spring Carousel Horse and Summer Carousel Horse.  I may use the baseline for Fall as the measurement for Spring and Summer since DH (Dear Husband) and I are looking at going out of town for Memorial Day.  That leaves 3 weeks in the sprint I averaged about 7 hours a week of stitching during May and that was more stitching than I’ve done in a long time.

I’m also planning on participating in a random SAL from Cross Stitch and Discuss so the projects I’ve selected may be worked on in no particular order. Selecting the stories for the sprint doesn’t determine the order just the commitment to see them completed during the next four weeks. For this sprint, I’ve selected the stories to go on the Kanban board (that will be another blog).

  1. Frame Christmas Elf – .5 point Story.
  2. Left and Right border on Mardi Gras Quilt – 1 point story
  3. Overdyed Dragon –
    1. Finish Blackwork Wings – 2 point story
    2. Arms and Belly – 2 point story
  4. Autumn Queen – 2000 Stitches – 5 point story
  5. Anniversary Rose Sampler – Finish first page – 3 point story

Stretch Goals – These are in case I finish the sprint work early

  1. Star Struck Mystery – Part 4 – 4 large applique stars, 8 small applique stars (2 points)
  2. Overdyed Dragon – Stitch Body (3 points)
  3. Fruit BellPull – Complete the Plum Block (3 points)

It will take me about 3 to 4 sprints to calculate the velocity of how many story points I can complete each sprint. And if I’m doing it right, I should be able to keep increasing velocity as I get better at my craft.

Now some of you may be wondering about the story points. In Agile, we use story points to gauge the relative difficulty of the work. For example, I should be able to complete the framing in a few hours, whereas completing the borders on Mardi Gras will take me twice as long to do. 2000 stitches on Autumn Queen will be 5 times as large as the chain stitches on the quilt. During the retrospective for Sprint 1, I’ll review if my story sizing was correct and use those stories for the sizing baseline for my next set of stories.

Posted in Agile, Planning, Retrospective

Retrospective and planning

Part of Scrum is taking the time to think back on the sprint and consider what works, what doesn’t work and what you want to try that will hopefully improve performance toward delivery. It’s also a time to recap what was accomplished in the last sprint.

A sprint is a block of time set aside for doing work.  At work we use 2 week periods but I was thinking from the first flosstube video that I would be making one a month. So I’m looking at 4 week sprints.

I’m at the end of 4 weeks of Stitch May-nia and the close of this sprint – so the recap–

What I’ve accomplished:
Autumn Queen – 4.5 hours approximately 1000 stitches
Overdyed Dragon – 2.75 hours completed blackwork on back wing and backstitching
Dr. Who Quilt – 1.5 hours completed Barrowman autograph, started Peter Davison
Something Wicked – 1.75 hours – new start 18 squares completed
Anniversary Roses – 1.75 hours – completed 1.5 rows of text
Fruit Bell Pull – 1.5 hours – Finished stitching plums, right border
Fortunate Traveller – 1.25 hours – spent most time sorting pattern to figure where I was, stitched on border frame
Tide Pools – 2 hours, finished block 3
Fall Carousel – 1 hour, part of face, backstitching to finish 2 blocks
Mardi Gras Quilt – Left border chain, right side smyrnas
Elephant surgery to repair damaged stuffed animal

What worked well:
Stitching while watching flosstube
Stitching while DH is in the darkroom or sleeping
Having projects set up the day before so I can start on them immediately
Having the calendar schedule of what I am working on
Having the mindset that I will do at least one thread a day.
Leaving electronics out of reach of the stitching chair

What didn’t work
Sony DVD in my craft room – no YouTube, no I ❤ radio, wait time for Netflix
10 blocks of time for rotation – I either go over or don’t stitch at all.

Things to Try
1. Goal Oriented Rotation
2. Prioritized backlog
3. Capacity Planning
4. Kanban board
5. Travel Pieces

Next blog will be pictures from the sprint and planning for the next sprint.

Posted in Agile, Planning

Applying Agile to my Hobby

At work we’ve been implementing Agile as a way to work quicker and eliminate waste. The main principles of Agile are found in the Agile Manifesto. But Agile Consortium has a great explanation for non tech people.

Agile eliminates the heavy documentation up front and and relies on small snippets of the project delivered quickly.  Work is performed in a set time period known as a sprint. You plan the amount of work that you can do in the sprint and commit to finishing the work.  A project is known as a theme or an epic depending on its size.  An epic is broken into smaller tasks known as stories.  A Scrum team does relative sizing on the stories based on the amount of effort.  A Fibonacci sequence is used for sizing the stories.  For example the smallest story is a .5.  A story which is 2x as big as a .5 is a 1.  Most teams pick a story which is an average size and then determine the size of other stories based on whether they are larger, smaller or the same size.

The remaining effort in the sprint is graphed on a burndown chart.MayBurndown

The ideal burndown looks like this.  But rarely does the work follow the burndown chart. One line is the ideal burndown.  The other is the actual work remaining to complete the remaining stories.  The key is to make sure that both lines are at zero at the end of the sprint.

My Sprint Maynia sprint is actually a sprint zero.  A sprint zero is a planning sprint.  It’s giving me time to get a gauge on the amount of effort each project I have takes.  This sprint, I’m working on 15 projects for 2 days each during the month.  On the 7th I started a new project which hadn’t been originally planned in the sprint, so you see the increase in remaining effort above the planned work.

How am I gauging the remaining work on each project?  Some projects are easier than others.  Big spots of color are easier than confetti, samplers are simpler than full coverage pieces.  So for each piece, I’m recording the time I stitched and how many stitches I was able to do in that time.  I’m also breaking the amount of work left in each piece into stories.  For example:

Project: Dr. Who Quilt

Dr. Who Quilt from Fandom in Stitches, May 2016


  1. Peter Davison Autograph
  2. Jenna Coleman Autograph
  3. Alex Kingston
  4. Matt Smith
  5. Graph out Border Poem
  6. Transfer Border Poem
  7. Stitch 1234 line
  8. Stitch 5678 line
  9. Stitch 9101112 line
  10. Stitch 1211109 line
  11. Stitch 8765 line
  12. Stitch 4321 line
  13. Attach Border
  14. Prepare Back
  15. Quilt
  16. Prepare Binding
  17. Bind

So I have 17 stories to finish the Dr. Who quilt (pattern from Fandom in Stitches).  Quilting the Quilt is the largest story, Transferring the border poem is the smallest.

Part of planning is creating the backlog and prioritizing the efforts.  I have 36 Wips right now and several items which I would like to start. I have the remaining effort for the projects sized.  Now it’s a matter of setting the priorities and putting together the roadmap.