Start the New Year without the WIP Guilt


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I know I say this every time I have to introduce one of our Guest Posters but it is true every time….I am excited about having today’s guest. Kelly, author of the Blue Bird Sews Blog, has some wonderful tutorials on her blog. She is quite talented and all over the the quilting world. She has some great ideas about shedding the guilt so let me step aside so you can enjoy her post….

There will always be new WIP’s (work’s in progress) for the quilter. New ideas to contemplate, new patterns from the best designers,  inspiration to be found from all over quilty internet blog land, new fabric to dream with and of course the stash to work from. As quilters we yearn for the next project that sparks our interest; so much so that we stay up until ungodly hours of the morning to cut, sew and press just one block out of 50 that is needed for that next quilt.  We try to finish,  oh we try really hard! But by the time all the blocks are done — well then there is sashing options, boarders to miter, sandwiching to be done, quilting (eek! even FMQ) to be tried…binding to sew. You know the list too and somewhere in the middle a WIP is born.

1. Close up of Quilting, 2. Blogger's BOM Quilt, 3. Finished Weekender Bag, 4. Mod Pop Complete!
1. Close up of Quilting, 2. Blogger’s BOM Quilt, 3. Finished Weekender Bag, 4. Mod Pop Complete!

I love all my quilts, all my projects equally but invariably the quilts that get done are destined for a purpose. Something for my shop, a family member or Portland Modern Quilt Guild commitment. All of these are equally good reasons to finish, but what about those inspired quilts of the moment that happen all at once yet wait for months, years maybe to be completed. How to finish those? Hmmmm….

1. TheFlock [2], 2. CompanionStarFriendship.Front, 3. Quilt for a Smile charity quilt- detail, 4. swoon... again.
1. TheFlock [2], 2. CompanionStarFriendship.Front, 3. Quilt for a Smile charity quilt- detail, 4. swoon… again.
That was a question I had earlier this year. How on earth do I finish these umpteen quilts I have around in various stages of completion? How could I even start a new quilt with those umpteen quilts hiding in the drawers? Am I really going to buy another 1/2 yard of this awesome fabric because I want to, what about my huge stash at home?   Now wait here, even if you don’t harbor the same kind of WIP guilt I do, read on you may find a tip that speaks to you…or please share your own with us in the comments! So with that here are some suggestions for you to use or ignore as you like.

1. Throw them out. Gently of course, slowly at first. Put the pieces into a bag and close it shut. Leave it the closet for a month or two. Open it up and ask is the world going to end if I don’t have/save/hoard this unfinished quilt? If the answer is still yes after a month then salvage what fabric you like for scraps and donate the rest. Let go of the WIP guilt.

2. Make it to donate it. Okay if number 1 freaked you out then consider finishing your quilt with the intent to donate it. There are lots of organizations that would love to pass on a quilt. Every year Kate at Swim, Bike, Quilt! hosts a 100 quilts for kids initiative and she shares a few worthy charities that need your finished WIP quilt. If you are involved with a guild check with one of your officers about the current charity they are giving to. Make some else warm and give yourself the warm fuzzies too.

1. ColorsOfSpain.Front, 2. Grandma Shakspears, 3. Echo Stained, 4. Solid Love
1. ColorsOfSpain.Front, 2. Grandma Shakspears, 3. Echo Stained, 4. Solid Love

3. Try out a new technique. Okay you have a few quilt tops done and you just can’t bring yourself to quilt them out. Take a big gulp, sandwich it up (Elizabeth Hartman has a great tutorial for this) and try something new that you’ve admired. By the time you are done you will be way better than when you started and you’ll feel like a quilting queen! Another way to broaden your skills is to take a class, try improv, color play or free motion quilting. We can all benefit from learning  and doing something new!

4. Join a support group. Seriously we all need a little help to finish these languishing quilts. Besides having a blog to shout about it, there are flickr groups, Finish-it-up-Along 2013, the Threadbias community, instagram, your local quilt guild, WIP Wednesday with Freshly Pieced or join a quilting bee. Having a group of people to encourage you in your work, especially when the labor part of the love of quilting kicks in will increase those chances of completing a project.

5. Get organized! You might not even know how many WIPs you currently have! (I am currently guilty of this 100%, my list isn’t many but I know there is one or two I plum forgot about!) Take a quiet moment and pull them all out onto the dinning room table or somewhere you’ve got some room. Bring out some storage like gallon zip lock bags, clear totes or shoe boxes and start sorting the unfinished pieces into the bags and boxes.

6. Make a list. Write down or create a computer document that has each project  listed with the date started, current progress (i.e. blocks complete or 10 blocks to go), any supplies needed to complete the quilt  and the intended purpose of the quilt (gift, donate, your couch) Having this information at your finger tips might prevent another WIP and encourage  you to finish up steps along the way. Here are some other great tips I stumbled across in this blog post specifically for quilt organization at Sew We Quilt! written by Karen from Sew Many Ways, she has a whole section on craft organization! Check it out and get inspired to be tidy!

1. Paula's Quilt, 2. Placemats set 2, 3. Retro Flowers, 4. Little Stitches embroidery on Noodlehead Open Wide Pouches for Susan and Trudi
1. Paula’s Quilt, 2. Placemats set 2, 3. Retro Flowers, 4. Little Stitches embroidery on Noodlehead Open Wide Pouches for Susan and Trudi

7. Edit the quilt. The fabric is picked out, the pattern decided upon and the queen sized batting bought. But stop there, would a mini quilt satisfy that pickle dish yearning? What about the blocks that were started but never made into a quilt top? Do any of your completed tops or blocks fit into this wall hanging category? Hooray! Make it easy on yourself and edit it down.

8. Stop hoarding fabric. This might break a quilt commandment but it’s true for me. I try really hard to use the fabric I have to complete my WIPs. Maybe that back doesn’t have to be 4 yards of new flannel. First try auditioning all possible fabrics for the boarders or back before buying new — and maybe make a bold choice that pushes your usual design. Only once you’ve exhausted your current stash options should you hop to your favorite fabric store (online or in person) and shop for your specific WIP. Treat your self restraint with a pedicure or mocha and quickly cut into that new WIP fabric and finish it up.

9. Work on WIPs first. That golden hour when you have a few moments to yourself and you’ve got a ton of things you would like to accomplish (because that WIP list has been staring at you every time you go to your sewing space!). Well start off on the right note and take 15 minutes to work on a WIP. I like to do this because with a time limit I can iron a few pieces, mark a few sewing lines or stitch up half a pile of flying geese. Then the 15 minutes are over and I can mentally check those things off the list and either keep with my WIP if I’m in the mood or move on to my new love; without the WIP guilt.

1. MamasChina.FoldedOnRail0001, 2. Solid Love, 3. four skulls are better than one!, 4. Finished Farmer's Wife
1. MamasChina.FoldedOnRail0001, 2. Solid Love, 3. four skulls are better than one!, 4. Finished Farmer’s Wife

10. Set a WIP goal. How much do you want to finish this year, this month or by next week? Write that down and post it next to your WIP list. Share it with your support group, take those 15 minutes to check off an item or two and be mindful of the purpose of the quilt. Having these things in mind will help to overcome the urge to shove the WIPs into the back of the closet.

So did one of these tips speak to you or do you think I’m completely loco? Ha! I admit there’s a little crazy in these ideas but used in the right scenario it just might transform a WIP into a beautiful finish.  What is your strategy for creating a quilt from start to finish? Share your get it done tips with us!

Thanks so much to Rhonda for letting me share my WIP strategies with you all! I plan on making my WIP list up this week so I know where to focus my efforts in 2013. I’ll be sure to share my progress with you all at Blue Bird Sews and in the Finish it up Along flickr group!

Cheers and Happy New Year!


Pssst….Rhonda here to remind you….the 2013 FAL is moving to Leanne’s Blog …..She Can Quilt. You can link up over there starting January 7th.


she can quilt



11 Comment

  1. Well that was an excellent read, full of great ideas regarding wip management – thanks so much for sharing this!

    1. Loved the suggestions, some great ideas!

  2. guilt free WIP, what a concept. thanks for the suggestions

  3. Throw them out?!! Wow, terrify my with the first one then all the rest sound brilliant 😉 lol Great suggestions!

  4. Every year I work on starting and completing my quilts and since many go to disaster and victims of tragedy, homeless I get many done and use quite a bit of my stash. Some of the greatest projects I have made sit in my closet all completed waiting for a home. Love the ideas and to me my quilts are blessings to someone in need!

  5. I’m flagging this post to reread. The idea of getting organized is overwhelming, but I think that would help me accomplish more.

  6. I still love all my old projects so I am sticking with the support group, the FAL is for me.

  7. There are some great hints, and motivation here! I should book mark this and read it every time I get tempted to start something new!

  8. I loved this post. Great ideas! Currently I use a plastic organizer that has 3 deep drawers in it for my WIPs. Once all 3 drawers are full I can’t start a new project until I empty one by finishing the quilt that’s in progress. Usually I end up cycling between the 3 WIPs based on my mood, and some spend more time in the drawer than others. But, there’s no better feeling than having an empty drawer and deciding which project to fill it with next!

  9. Thank you for the excellent tips, Kelly! A couple of them really speak to me. The throw it out or donate it idea, and the downsizing one. I had recently been thinking of trying to sell my completed tops that I don’t want anymore on eBay, or donating them to a local op shop. I just don’t like them anymore, so why quilt them is my thinking! I’ve also noticed that I’ve been making quilts bigger and bigger, but really if I made them smaller I’d be more likely to finish them.

  10. Each and every one of these apply to me. I knew deep down that I should be doing this but seeing it in writing helps it hit home. I planned on purging my craft room this week anyway. Maybe its time to let go of some of the unfinished (and unstarted projects)…

    Thanks for the help 🙂

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