How do you finish a quilt? And by that I mean how do you stay motivated to see the process through? I started a lot of projects and set them aside after taking my first quilting class.
However, when I decided that I was tired of half-finished projects, I had to find a way to deal with a few bad habits . . .
- Perfectionism. First, I’m not a perfect quilter. But, that’s a problem because I am a perfectionist. So, when seams didn’t match or points didn’t match, or my blocks did not match the measurements in the pattern, I got frustrated. I set it aside and told myself I’d go back to it . . . when I was a better quilter. 🙂
- Dedication. I was not dedicated enough. I’d work on a project one weekend and then pick it up again months later. When I did pick it up again, I wasted time trying to figure out where I left off.
- Disorganization. I was disorganized. Yep. I still am sometimes. They say a messy desk/room is a sign of creativity. I happily embrace that thought. But, when you can’t find the needles you just bought for your sewing machine, can’t find your rotary cutter, or can’t find the pattern you were working from . . . that’s just disorganization. Let’s admit it.
- Over commitment. I was attempting big projects. I mean, aren’t you supposed to make bed quilts?? Maybe it’s just me, but I get bored. Sewing the same block over and over again with the same fabric gets old eventually. I’m easily distracted by new fabric, new colors, new patterns . . . . However, that only leads to a pile of unfinished projects.
- Misguided Beliefs. Embracing the notion that it’s not a real quilt unless you hand-quilt it yourself
Any of those sound familiar? So, what did I do?
I got over it. Oh, I’m still a perfectionist. I just made a deal with myself. I reasoned that I was not going to enter my quilt in a contest to have it scrutinized by judges with white gloves. It was going to live at my house on my couch. Making mistakes is part of the process. No one gets better without practice. Isn’t that the way everything works?
One of the first quilts I made included half-square triangles. When I was finished with the quilt top, there were not a lot of points. I didn’t know there was anything wrong with it. I was proud of it. My husband loved it because I made it for him. Imagine my chagrin when I went to my next guild meeting and the other members were fretting over ‘losing their points’. Ugh. I didn’t know it was a thing.
One of my morning rituals is to quilt every day for 15 minutes. I set a clock and get busy. You’d be surprised how much you can get done in 15 minutes if you know exactly what you need to do. Some days I just cut fabric or press blocks, but it keeps me on track. Bonus: If you do it first thing in the morning, you’ll feel accomplished all day AND it won’t be shoved off your plate by some other responsibility (like washing dishes). It’s a good way to conquer the perfection issue too. There is nothing like practice to move you closer to perfect.
Clean your craft space. No, I mean it. Throw stray fabric and threads away, vacuum, sweep, dust. Clear everything away and put back only what you need. I find ‘clean’ motivational.
Look for organizational tools. Something as simple as picture nails gave me a way to hang my rulers. A couple of ArtBin storage boxes gave me a way to keep all items for a particular project together. Storage boxes or baskets are especially important if you don’t have a dedicated craft space. If you must unpack every day, you need to be organized so you don’t waste your precious time figuring out what to do next.
Organization experts recommend that you make a list at the end of your work day of the tasks you need to complete the next day. That works for quilters too. I don’t make a list, but I put the thing I’m going to do the next day front and center. I pin what needs to be sewn and place it next to the sewing machine. I leave blocks on the ironing board that need to be pressed. I clean the scraps off my cutting table and leave the pattern in the center with the next step marked by a sticky tab. All of that could be neatly stacked and put in an ArtBin container if you must pack up your space each day though.
I only make lap-size quilts now. That’s it. That is my limitation and I know it. I don’t make wall hangings because I don’t have enough wall space. I don’t make full-size, queen-size, or king-size quilts because I get bored. I’ve made baby quilts and picnic blankets, but those basically require the same number of blocks or fewer than a lap-sized quilt
Honestly, I can feel the boredom setting in by the time I lay out the quilt and sew a couple of rows together. I make myself push through at that point though because I can see what it is going to be. There is nothing like watching your project take shape to spur motivation.
But, I finish the quilt. By that I mean that I measure the quilt for backing and binding. I purchase fabric to cover both. I sew the backing and sew the binding strip. I even have an ArtBin storage box just for bindings. It is so nice to have the binding already sewn and not be searching through fabrics for the one I intended to use when I’m ready to bind the quilt.
And, you know what? People are just as happy to receive a quilt they can snuggle under as they are to receive a huge bed quilt. In fact, they might even be more excited.
Oh, my goodness how I could run on about this one. The first quilt I made was quilted by hand. It was a wall hanging and I made it in my first class. So, I know how to hand-quilt. However, it takes a long time. I’m always too excited to see the finished result of my piecework. I want to use the quilt, display it, give it away, etc.
The definition of a quilt per the Merriam Webster dictionary,
“a bed coverlet of two layers of cloth filled with padding (such as down or batting) held in place by ties or stitched designs”
Nowhere in that definition does it mention hand-quilting. Hmm . . . so as long as it is composed of three layers sewn (or tied in some cases) it is a real quilt. If your joy lies in lamenting how you will never finish your quilt because you just don’t have time to hand-quilt it, then that is your joy.
My joy is a finished quilt.
So, when I decided that I wanted to finish projects I found a long-arm quilter who I trusted with my quilts. It’s hard to leave that first quilt. I get it. I’ve given my quilts to two long-arm quilters over the past 10 years. The first introduced me to colored thread and smart designs. If you’ve never used colored or varigated thread to quilt, you might just be amazed. Then, we moved across the state and I needed to find another long-arm quilter. I finally did and while she uses neutral thread colors, her eye for design is great.
So, if you have a lot of half-finished projects choose one and decide to finish. Don’t worry about making it perfect. Promise yourself that you will work on it a little each day. If it is a big quilt, don’t make all the blocks. Just finish enough blocks to make a small quilt. Give yourself permission to hand it off to a seasoned long-arm quilter. You will be happy you did!
There is nothing like a finished quilt.