Friends, this is an intervention! Your quilt works in progress pile has gotten too big and I'm here to help. Today I have compiled SIX TIPS to not only stop your pile of WIPs—or works in progress—from growing, but to actually banish it completely! You don't believe me? You think you're beyond help?? Nay, friend, NAY.
We quilters, myself included, love getting fresh fabric and starting new creative endeavors, but when it comes to finishing them…eh, that’s a different story. Many of us can look around our homes and find fabric, supplies and half-finished projects scattered about and taking up space.
Your pile might be just a few quilt tops or maybe even a towering mountain that feels completely insurmountable (NO JUDGEMENT!) I'm pushing up my glasses and rolling up my sleeves because nothing gets me as excited as bringing organization and structure to something messy and chaotic. Woooah Nelly! Are you feeling the energy?? Let's get motivated! Let's make a plan! Let’s talk about how to organize your quilt works in progress before you're buried under a pile of half-finished quilts!
Above is a Voyage quilt top—get the pattern here!
Before We Tackle Those Quilt Works in Progress...
Before you start organizing your stack of WIPs, I suggest reading 3 Steps to Finish Your WIPs. This post covers tips like what to do if you don’t want to finish a WIP in your pile. Deciding which WIPs you actually want to finish is an important place to start!
Maybe you want to finish all of your WIPs. Good for you! Completing something you start is such a great feeling. But if you are dreading some of your quilt works in progress, or your taste has changed since starting, or you’re just not feeling it anymore, that’s ok too. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with saying goodbye to an unfinished quilt.
Once you’ve decided which quilts to complete, keep reading for our WIP organization tips below!
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Get the Thrive quilt pattern shown above!
Tip #1: Put Your Quilts in Order Using Our Handy Downloadable Organizational Chart!
The order that you’ll use to tackle your WIP pile is completely up to you. Maybe you want to start with the one you’re most excited to make, one that has the most familiar techniques, or one that needs to be finished before a special occasion. You can decide, but here’s what I recommend.
In order to build momentum and get that great feeling of finishing a quilt, gather all your WIPs together and arrange them into a pile based on how much you have already done. The top of the pile (aka, the first WIP you’ll finish) should be the most complete project.
Once you finish one WIP, you’ll feel energized and excited to keep finishing your projects! By the time you’re on the last WIP in your pile, even if it’s just a fabric pull that you haven’t started cutting yet, you might be surprised by how enthusiastic you’ll be to tackle it!
If you want help determining how to organize your quilt works in progress pile, use our free WIP organization chart above. This chart will help walk you through each of your quilts, check off what you’ve already done, and decide which ones to start first. You can add all the notes you want and even keep track of your fabric in the project notes section!
Above is the New Horizons quilt pattern available in the shop!
Tip #2: Gather All the Supplies You Need for Each Project
If there are supplies you need for a specific quilt, grab those and put them with the WIP. I’m not talking about scissors, pins, or supplies you’d use for every quilt. Here are some examples of supplies you might need for one specific WIP:
- Printed pattern
- Specialized rulers
- Thread for piecing and quilting
- Backing and binding fabric
By gathering not only your WIP but also everything you need to finish it, you’ll be able to pull the quilt out and not have to search through your sewing supplies for everything you need. It gets you one step closer to finishing that quilt!
Tip #3: Physically Organize Your WIPs
Like any sewing organization, finding a system that works for you can be a challenge. And the result might be partially completed projects scattered around your sewing space. Of course, it’s hard to keep track of the quilts you’re trying to finish if you don’t even know where all of them are!
Here’s how I organize my quilt works in progress. I keep a three-tiered rolling cart next to my sewing table. On each tier, I keep a WIP at a different stage. The top tier is the WIP I will work on first—the one that’s closest to being finished.
In my case, that's a mostly finished Gather quilt top. I have all the rows finished, and most of them are sewn together, but I sew in a very small space and my back was hurting working on pinning the rows on the floor. I have a plan for finishing this quilt on a huge ping pong table so I don't have to bend over so much! So that one is up first.
Above is the Gather quilt pattern available in the shop!
On the next tier, I have a Holiday Party quilt. I know, I know. I already made one of those! But I also wanted to make a limited-color version. I have all my fabric cut, which you can see above. So, I’ll start working on Holiday Party once I’ve finished my Gather quilt.
On the bottom tier, I have a fabric pull for Mod Mountains that I haven’t started cutting yet. I even have all of my colors numbered to match my Mod Mountains coloring sheet! Because I haven’t started cutting it yet, it will be the last WIP I finish. I’m hoping that my excitement at finishing Gather and Holiday Party will help me sail through Mod Mountains.
Tip #4: Set Realistic Timing Goals
Timing is everything. And when we overestimate how much time we have to quilt and miss a deadline, it can feel discouraging. You might even want to give up on conquering your WIP pile!
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to finish all your WIPs as quickly as possible. Try to map out a realistic goal. Do you think you have enough time in your busy schedule to finish one WIP this month? Great! That’s an excellent goal! If you have a WIP that is currently still a pile of uncut fabric, you might want to give yourself some extra time.
I currently have three Suzy Quilts WIPs that I want to finish in the next six months. Here's my plan of attack!
I’m hoping to finish my Gather quilt top by mid-February because I have a very busy January. For Holiday Party, I’m hoping to wrap that up by April. And Mod Mountains is likely to be a summer project. By being graceful with my time estimates, I’m able to make sure I have time to also work on quilts with tight deadlines, other sewing projects, my job, and parent my toddler.
If you have more free time, make your schedule faster! If you’re able to make a goal not to start a new quilt until all your WIPs are finished, that’s great. But if you have lots of other things going on and want to slowly chip away at your WIP pile, go for it.
The goal here is to be realistic. If you put tight deadlines that you can’t achieve on your WIP pile, the feeling of missing a deadline can make you put the WIP off for even longer.
If possible, chain piece your quilt rows together to keep blocks organized. As you can see in the photo above, all of these blocks are sewn into rows and those rows are chained together so nothing will get out of place while this WIP waits its turn to be finished. Click here for a full tutorial (with video) on how to chain piece quilt rows together.
Below is the finished Nordic Triangles quilt with a 9-month old Joanna rolling around on top.
Tip #5: Hire a Longarm Quilter
If you’re anything like me, quilting on your domestic machine can be the big barrier to getting from a quilt top to a finished quilt. Sure, it’s possible and even fun to quilt yourself! But when you’re looking at a big pile of unfinished projects, the process may look impossible. It’s time to call in the reinforcements!
A good longarm quilter is a gift from the quilting heavens. They do beautiful work and free up valuable time for quilters who are trying to finish their WIPs. It’s a win-win!
Hiring a longarm quilter may increase your budget for your quilts. So once you’ve found a longarm quilter you want to use, you can estimate how much each WIP will cost to be longarm quilted based on the size of your quilt and the quilter’s fee per square inch. If you can only send one or two quilts to a longarmer, that’s a great investment! Make a plan to quilt the rest yourself and consider doing quick and simple designs like straight line quilting.
If you’re not sure where to start with a longarm quilter, check out our in-depth guide to hiring a longarm quilter and our ultimate guide to longarm quilters in the United States and Canada.
Tip #6: Find Your Cheering Squad!
When tackling any big project, the motivation and joy you find in your project can increase if you have supporters cheering you on. Talk to some quilting friends and see if anyone else is working through their WIP pile. The two of you can chat about your progress, share strategies for finishing quilts, and send supportive messages along the way!
The Suzy Quilts Patterns Facebook Group is an excellent cheering squad. As you work through your WIPs, post your progress in the group and ask who else is tackling their unfinished projects!
Time To Finish Your Quilt Works in Progress!
Are you ready to organize and prioritize your WIPs? Do you feel confident in your plan to get your WIP pile to zero? Tell us how you’re tackling that pile of unfinished projects in the comments!