Quilting: Tips for Staying Focused and Motivated

Monday, March 5, 2018

I'm the kind of gal that doesn't do well with too much on my plate.  I don't do well when my house is too messy, I don't do well when I have too many works in progress, too many deadlines, too many family "situations" all at once...you get it, right?  Honestly, when I'm stressed, tears will most likely be coming in the near future if I don't get a handle on things quickly.  Oh I hate that about myself! So I do my best to not overcommit myself and keep my house and projects in order.  Today I want to talk about the latter.  I want to share how I keep the number of projects I'm working on - at bay, as well as, how I stay motivated to finish projects.


First, let me tell you, at any given time I only have about 4-6 works in progress (WIPS).  I think that's pretty good!  What about you?  How many do you have?  There was a time in my life, many years ago (when I first started quilting) that I had more like 12-15 WIPS at any given time.  I hated it!  It took up a lot of space in my sewing room AND a lot of space in my mind!  If you relate to the high volume of WIPS, don't you find that most of those projects are old and you're kind of "over" most of them?  So I try really hard not to have a lot of WIPS and most of all, to only keep the ones that I still really, really like.


I'll go through my WIPS (or kits) from time to time and if I'm "over" some of them, I will do one of three things.  (1) If I like the fabric but just don't want to make that quilt anymore I will take the fabric out of my storage box and integrate it back into my stash.  Can I tell you how liberating that is!?!  It's like, within seconds, you've cleared that project from your plate!  Try it!  It's one of the best things I can suggest if you have a million WIPS and you're "over" most of them.  (2) The other thing I do sometimes is I'll give small kits, random blocks, extra half-square triangles, scraps, etc. to quilting friends OR if I don't think they'll be too appealing to anyone I will donate them.  I always start with good intentions and want to make all the things and use up all the leftovers but sometimes I just don't have the time or a use for those extra projects so I want to give them to someone else that can enjoy them.  I love seeing what they make of them and many times that old saying is true, "One man's trash is another man's treasure!"  (3) Once in a while, I will do a destash sale if I think something is worth some $$$.  I don't do this very often, as it does take a lot of time to list items and process orders.  I also know that not everyone has a platform to do a destash sale through social media but you could consider a guild or neighborhood yard sale to sell your items.


As far as staying motivated to finish projects that I'm currently working on, I try to set goals for myself.  Recently I started a new project that requires SEVENTY-SEVEN eight-point stars!  That's 308 Flying-Geese!  About halfway in I got the urge to put it aside and start a new project.  But I really want to finish it!!!  I really want to enjoy it at the foot of our bed!  So what's a girl to do?


Here are my best tips for staying focused and motivated so I (and you!) can get those projects done!

1.  Make a plan with small daily goals. The thought of making 77 (or even 35) star blocks all in one shot sounds exhausting and totally daunting, right?  So what I like to do is set small goals that I can do every day.  My goal is to do 2-3 star blocks every day until I'm done.  Make sure your goal is achievable and print off a calendar so you can put a little check mark on the days you accomplish your goal and keep it where you can see it!  Those check marks feel so good and before you know it you will have met your goal!  You might miss a day here and there or you might only make 1 block instead of 2 or 3 but you will be making progress towards your goal and that's all that matters!

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2. For a really tedious project (like my star quilt) I prefer NOT to cut out everything first prior to sewing.  I did cut all the white upfront because it is faster to cut it all at once but picking out each of the blue fabrics is kind of my treat.  As soon as I'm done with 2-3 stars, I get to go pick out the next set of fabrics.  It breaks things up, allows me to get up from my sewing machine and I enjoy that part so I look forward to getting a few blocks done so I can go pick out the next set.


3. If you really feel like starting something new, how about just making a block or two to donate to a charity quilt?  That might feed your craving to work on something new, without the time and $$$ commitment of making a whole new quilt!  I just found out about a great opportunity that my friend Briawna Hugh is spearheading.  Every month she is collecting blocks for a charity quilt, then raffle tickets will be sold (the winner of the raffle receives that month's quilt) and all the ticket proceeds go to a different charity organization each month!  I think that is an absolutely fabulous idea!  Visit her blog, Purple Poppy Quilts for all the details.

 [Here are two blocks I made for Briawna's charity quilts.  You can use scraps and make two blocks in about 30 minutes!  A quick detour from my star blocks and now I'm ready to get back at it!]

4.  Instagram is a great community to find support and a whole lotta friends who will cheer you on!
In fact, my friends Heather @quiltstory and Megan @quiltstorymeg (who just so happen to be sisters!) recently issued a challenge to everyone to finish their WIPS this year!  All you have to do is post your WIPS on Instagram with the hashtag #qswipchallenge.  They're giving away prizes each month so if that's not motivation I don't know what is!  Follow the hashtag and support other makers!

[One of my current WIPS]

Finally, I asked the question "How do you stay focused and motivated to finish projects?" on Instagram and here are some of the other great suggestions that were mentioned:

"I try not to have deadlines, but just grab moments.  10 minutes here or there.  I got a quilt bound while I had a cold.  Keep a stack of piecing next to the machine.  I sit down and do 5 or 10.  Eventually, project complete!" - @idahob

"I take cutting days and cut for two or more projects at once.  When I sit to sew, I can work on one or the other, but both have to be sewn up before I cut more for either one...kinda forces me to keep working on the less favored one." - @crazyboutquilts

"I can't simply do "one" piece at a time...I usually have 3 on the go at different stages.  So...depending on how much time I have to do "something" sewing/quilting related, I can pick and choose which project to work on.  At some point one and all are finished." - @winkowl

"I don't have anywhere to store unfinished projects (on purpose) so they're always sitting out!  That means they get done!!  I just finished a project that had been sitting in pieces for 6 weeks!  Now I'm so excited to be able to start something new!!! - @jedicraftgirl

"I plug along on my current projects on weekdays and "play" on weekends.  I also give myself a few "anything goes" days after a finish (a project quilted and bound)." - @arlynparker

"Long ago, when I had Fridays off, someone had a photo blog going called Finish it Friday.  I took that very seriously.  I actually got a lot done knowing that at the end of the day I got to add my project photo to the lineup.  Now I'm best motivated by the deadline of someone's special occasion that I'm making for.  I need to get back to Finish it Fridays." - @alaskacandie

Aren't those all great ideas to help you stay motivated and focused!?!  If you've had luck with any of them or have something different that works for you, please share below!  If you're here seeking help in this department I hope one or more of these ideas will speak to you!  Go ahead and try it and start whittling down that pile of WIPS!

Happy quilting!