Before I sift through my pile of unfinished sewing projects to give you 3 steps to finish your WIPs, indulge me with one quick story. The year was 2007. I was 21. Although I wasn’t overly ambitious in my studies, I did have one special skill – I said yes to almost everything.
I said yes to joining clubs, yes to questionable fashion, yes to even more questionable haircuts, yes to parties and food and cross country road trips. I had endless energy and was discovering hundreds of new things for the first time!
Because of this yes-to-all mentality, during the summer leading into my senior year of college, I stumbled into an internship...at the Pentagon...in Washington, D.C. I know. I am still confused as well. I was a graphic design student with average grades from a school in the middle of America. It’s safe to say that nobody knew why or how I was allowed security clearance into the Pentagon on a daily basis.
During those three months I learned many things, but one of my main takeaways from high-powered government work was that nobody had time to say anyone’s full title. Every department, deputy and person of importance had an acronym.
My boss would get a stream of requests for printouts, presentations and signage from mystery letters that I had to pretend to know.
“Suzy, the PS of the DA of the DOD needs this presentation ASAP.”
“A-OK!” I'd reply with a salute, as I'd bounce off to my corner cubicle to Google everything she had just said.
I never did catch on to what those acronyms meant, but it did give me a deeper understanding of my own quilt community. Just like those powerful chiefs of government, we quilters cannot be bothered to say the full word when an acronym will do.
We’ve got our WIPs, our UFOs, our FQs and HSTs. Where would we be without our LQS, DSM and LAQ professionals? We take our sewing very seriously and have no time to fiddle around saying the full name of what we mean.
That’s why it’s time, GQs, to attack those WIPs with the same single-mindedness and veracity that we attack our acronyms. We’re going to identify the culprit, make a plan and finish the job.
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Step # 1 to Finish Your WIPs: Identify the Culprit
Are your WIPs in neatly sealed bags labeled with clear instructions? Or maybe you have a large basket in the corner of your closet where orphan blocks, unfinished tops and random scraps all get tossed. Whatever the situation, we’re pulling them out and identifying what we’ve got.
If you’re a longtime sewist, there may even be a few surprises at the bottom of the pile! With the sharp decisiveness of a machete hacking through a wild jungle, divvy up your WIPs into four piles:
- Throw it away. Let it go. You hate this project and every time you look at it an involuntary groan escapes your mouth. Set it free...into the trash. And don't feel guilty! Life is too short for your sewing projects to weigh you down.
- Finish it. Do it. You got this. Don’t start another new project until this pile is empty. Place this stack in a prominent spot and let it stare at you until it has disappeared.
- Pay someone to finish it for you. If it’s a quilt top that you don’t want to baste and quilt yourself, hire a LAQ professional. If you have beautiful blocks from a BOM that you simply cannot bring yourself to sew together, connect with your LQS, guild or friend group and ask if you can either exchange services or pay them to finish it for you. Get it off your plate!
- Donate it. This option may be a little trickier because you need to make sure you are giving away your WIP to a person or group who actually wants it. A lot of quilt guilds collect blocks and quilt tops to be finished and then given to charity. Just don’t “donate it” into the cluttered trunk of your friend’s car while whispering, “sucker.”
Pictured above is the Tail Feather quilt. The unfinished blocks featured in this post are created from making this pattern.
Step #2 to Whip Through Those WIPs: Make a Plan
The hardest thing about finishing your WIP is getting back in the groove. So...
- Reread the pattern from beginning to end. Even if it's a simple HST quilt pattern, skim the instructions and illustrations just to make sure you aren't forgetting anything. This is also a good time to make sure you still have all of the cut pieces and supplies.
- Give everything a fresh press with the iron. Fabric always looks better once it's pressed! And you know what? Treat yourself to some sweetly scented starch. You deserve a fresh start.
- Stack your fabric or blocks by your sewing machine. All that's left is to sit and sew! Easy breezy.
Step #3: Finish It
Be the mob boss closer you know you are. Crack your knuckles. Roll your shoulders. Get it done.
Oh, and be sure to give yourself lots of rewards along the way! Need to take a break every 30 minutes for snacks? Do it! While ploughing through old WIPs calories and dirty dishes do not exist. FACT.
What are your WIP secrets? Let us know in the comments! Are you a tidy WIP keeper with lots of labeled baskets and bags? Or do you prefer one huge bin? I have to admit that I hate WIPs. They stress me out! Even though this isn't a popular thing to say, I usually only have about one or two projects going at a time. C'est vrai!
If my WIP pile grows larger than three, I get an eye twitch. (Remember the chief inspector from the Pink Panther movies? Just like that.) My solution is that if a WIP sits unattended for more than a year, I donate it.
Glossary of Terms
- BOM: Block Of the Month
- DSM: Domestic Sewing Machine
- FMQ: Free Motion Quilting
- FQ: Fat Quarter
- GQ: Gentle Quilter (my term of endearment for you)
- HST: Half-Square Triangle
- LAQ: LongArm Quilting
- LQS: Local Quilt Shop
- UFO: UnFinished Object
- WIP: Work In Progress