Do a WIP Stocktake for Easy Progress

I have spent the last couple of weeks making amazing progress on my range of quilt WIPs (works in progress). Gosh that feels good! Whenever I want to feel easy progress, I do a big WIP stocktake, take note of what each WIP needs, and then choose which step I feel like doing next.

my WIP tubs

WIP snags

My works in progress (WIPs) live in archive boxes in a steel locker. I like this arrangement because they don't overwhelm me when I'm not working on them, but every so often it starts to feel like a haunted attic! I start to avoid it. Soon, I can't fit anything more in there and then the mess piles up around it. When this happens, I know I've hit Peak WIP. I struggle to start anything else because of the chaos. I know it's time to bring everything out into the light for a stocktake. 

There a several reasons an archive lid goes back on my WIP box and it gets put away in the cupboard. Sometimes, it's because it's time to launch something new in my shop, and the old things get left until the next break in deadlines. Sometimes, it's because I ran out of puff and needed a break. Mostly, though, my quilt WIPs get put away because I hit a snag. 

A snag for me is a change in process. Perhaps I've finished the blocks and need to cut joining fabric. Or, I've experienced a disappointment because something didn't turn out like I hoped, and I need to make a decision about it. Whenever this happens, I usually put it away for later. This isn't always an avoidance technique (though, I'm sure sometimes it is!). I find putting WIPs away for a season very helpful for progress and inspiration. Time seems to be very good at diminishing disappointments or allowing new ideas to bubble up. And, while I'm waiting, I'm making progress on something else! 

But, every so often, like this month, my entire collection of WIPs feels like one giant snag, and when that happens, I know it's time to give them some proper attention.

pressing Ice Cream Soda

Write a WIP Stocktake

The first thing I did was bring all my WIPs out into the light, and I left them there, in my entryway for a week. I wrote a list and jotted a few notes beside each quilt about the next steps. These steps included necessary parts of the finishing process like clearing off my ironing board, and also actions I could take to make progress easier, like bringing my ironing board into the living room and pressing while I watched a movie. Some WIPs needed just a half hour of attention and decision making and others needed a long two day basting session. I took note of which ones could make easy progress after some long put off decisions. I spent the following couple of weeks picking one after the other to make progress on as my mood dictated. 

My Ice Cream Soda Quilt, above, had snagged because there were too many tiny diamond papers left in it that I found while pressing (one of the consequences of paying your 13 yr old to remove papers!). I took a deep breath and finished pressing one block at a time, checking for papers as I went. I was surprised to find it only took an hour! Then I decided on backing, found I didn't have enough, and ordered more. It's now waiting for that to arrive.

Valentina Quilt top

Do the WIP Working Out

My Valentina Quilt (from my Hexie Handbook) above was just waiting for me to figure out the half blocks and edges. I needed to make sure the pattern continued correctly in the half blocks. I figured them out, realised I'd sewn them together wrong (!), unpicked them and sewed them in correctly. I always become a little more patient with myself for putting these things off till I can give it proper attention. My gut just knew it would require some working out! But once that was done, the progress continued and I pressed it, ready for basting. Next up, it needs backing choices made. 

While stitching my low volume Willoughby Quilt below, I realised that the pieces for one full quilt (72 blocks) would easily split into 2 baby quilts (36 blocks each!) I chose aqua for the first baby version, and had finished the blocks for that, but the 2nd quilt was waiting on a triangle colour choice. It arrived last week in a wholesale fabric for the shop and I was so excited to finally have a good option, and enough of it, that I cut and basted all the triangles, ready to stitch! I'm not going to push through to the end because I love having a quilt like this, ready to go when something else hits a snag. It's a great in between project. 

Willoughby Quilt
Willoughby Quilt with triangles
Pirouette quilt

Make a Little WIP Progress

Next on the list for my Pirouette Quilt, above, was another round of white pentagons. I cut, basted, and sewed them in. While doing this, I got excited about finishing this quilt, but that kind of waned by the time the pentagons were attached. The next job is a ton of tiny triangles. I'm pretty sure I've decided on the colour, but I'm not yet ready to dive in. That's ok! I feel like the next round's colour choice will make or break this quilt, and I'm happy to take my time with it. There have been times where I've been so glad I've waiting because the perfect idea lands in my lap down the track, much like my Willoughby Quilt above. I'm looking forward to that kind of serendipity!

Meadowsweet quilt

Clean Up, If Needed

The EPP portion of my Meadowsweet Quilt has been all stitched up, papers removed, and pressed for probably a year! I had even chosen the background square fabric. All it needed was a tidy cutting mat for cutting! I tidied up, cut the squares, I glued the blocks to the backgrounds and started to lay it out on my design wall. It was here that I hit a few more snags. I am one EPP block short, and I don't know if I never made it, or it's hiding somewhere else. Gah! I also cut two of the background squares 1/2" too narrow and need to cut a whole new strip of denim to replace them. But, thirdly, I'm not sure if I like the denim. Is it too dark? The whole thing seems to be lacking in contrast. So that quilt is going to stay up on my wall until the disappointment fades and inspiration strikes. 

Kindling quilt

Choose Something Easy

I did have one easy win! My low volume Kindling Quilt was pressed, edges in, ready to baste. I stumbled across this beautiful Anna Maria Horner Wideback, set aside for something else, while I was tidying up. I stole it from that project and cut it into the right size for this one, and quilted her in easy, straight lines. This top had dirty paw prints on it from when I'd laid it out to plan the quilt top, so as soon as it was finished, I put it in the wash, and the stains are gone! Win, win, win!

WIP ladder

You know the saying, you cannot manage what you haven't measured? I certainly know that to be true. In fact, I would add that measuring stops them from becoming a big scary monster in your imagination. Rather than avoiding them, you become up to the task, competent, and confident. 

Making progress on some of my WIPs these last couple of weeks has also helped me go a little easier on my past self. It's easy to roll your eyes at that girl, scolding her for being flaky or having eyes too big for her stomach. Going back over these projects is a mixed bag of loving the quilts again, remembering the early spark, and understanding how those snags really do halt progress. I have much more appreciation for past me for starting them, and confidence in future me that they'll be finished eventually. 

It's also been a good reminder that finishing doesn't make the whole process worthwhile. I started a new quilt because I enjoy the spark of creativity and imagination. I hit obstacles, because that's a natural occurrence in creative endeavours, and I learn and build confidence as I overcome them. All of these things make quilt-making, regardless of how long a quilt took or whether it was finished, completely worthwhile to me.

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  • Melinda

    Jodi, your quilt making philosophy is really encouraging to me. I am grateful for the way you share these lessons and steps and it helps me reconnect with the joy of quilt making.

  • Hayden

    I love this. So great to give yourself permission to set a project aside until you are in the right frame of mind to work on it again. Quilting is an art. Making should bring us joy. I also love that you remind us we can learn from our projects and we don’t have to finish them all.

  • Gillian

    Enjoyed reading you blog! I would change colour of the flower centres in your meadowsweet quilt to brighten it up. Perhaps all yellow, pink or white.
    I love the idea of leaving something until fresh ideas come. The number of possible alternatives can be overwhelming!

  • Wendy

    It is a comfort to know I am not the only one with projects that need to be finished. I find I sometimes get overwhelmed and end up putting the quilt or EPP aside for another day! I have made a list of what needs to be done and will take the least amount of work, I hope this will not be so overwhelming and will spur me on to finish all WIP! Thank you for your blog it has prompted me into action.

  • Louise

    Thanks for such an inspiring post. I not only have unfinished quilts, but sewing (clothes), knitting, cross stitch, crocheting and paint by numbers. Over Easter I am going to get EVERYTHING out and see what needs doing to finish. I am pretty sure my cardigan I knitted last winter just needs some ends darned in ☺️. That might be the first thing I tackle. Also, I LOVE the artwork of the flowers in the floral vase. So pretty. Could you please tell me where it’s from/who the artist is.

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