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!
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!
Click here to download our free WIP organization chart!
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.
This Voyage quilt was longarm quilted by Sparklesax Designs.
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!
30 thoughts on “Organize Your Quilt Works in Progress (Plus a Free Download!)”
Great suggestions. Great timing as I’ve been doing a declutter challenge this month. I currently organize my WIPs in ziplock bags then put them in a bin. I’ve recently learned to separate those between kits and WIPs. I like the idea of using the 3 tier shelf to prioritize. My goal is to have no more than 3 WIPs at a time so that shelf is a great idea.
Having no more than three WIPs at a time is a fantastic goal! I love that you’re already thinking about this, and it sounds like the three tier cart is going to be absolutely perfect for you!
This is an excellent article and worksheet. Would it be possible to share it on my quilting guild’s FB page? One of our goals for this year is to power through our UFOs (WIPs). Thanks in advance.
Hi Carol! That’s an excellent goal, especially to tackle as a group. You can cheer each other on! Feel free to share the link for this article anywhere. I hope your quilt guild friends enjoy it!
Thanks so much!
I ended last year, my first year quilting with EIGHT WIPs! I got really sick over the Fall and all my best laid plans for staying on track were shot! So now I am tackling that pile and have promised myself I won’t start another thing until I am down to just two WIPs, the two quilts that I am hand quilting. This article was really helpful for organizing what I have left to do. I have purchased clear storage bins that fit in the shelves of my sewing table so I can take out a project and work on it and then put it back to keep the table clean in between projects.
Excellent idea to not start another project until you’re down to two WIPs! I love that, especially if you keep that goal in mind every year. Welcome to quilting, and good luck finishing those WIPs! Let us know when you get down to two!
I thought your three tier shelf idea for prioritizing projects was a good one. I have set 2022 as my “Finish WIP’s Year”…or repurpose them. You are correct that learning to quilt them up was the big roadblock to my finishing quilts. However, part of my year is honing my quilting skills. I want to control the whole process, and this is the year to get going on that!
I love your enthusiasm, Janet! And looking at your WIPs in terms of the entire process is an excellent way to make sure you don’t get a backup in the future. Let us know how it goes for you!
Great article, I currently have 3 wins I am planning to get finished this year, and 4 new projects in the wings…I find myself already dreaming of a new project while cutting fabrics for a current. I really need to stop doing that. Lol
On another note PLEASE tell me what fabrics those are in your intro photo, I am swooning!
You can absolutely dream of new projects! It’s fun to daydream about ideas and new things to come—such a great way to stay motivated. Making a list of all your quilt ideas and mapping out when you think you’ll have the most free time to get them is a great way to keep those daydreams organized. The fabric in the first photo is some of Suzy’s, it’s so lovely! I’m pretty sure those are Art Gallery Fabrics solids!
Janet – I am a first time visitor to your site. I have already learned so much from you. At 76, you might call me a late bloomer, but when covid hit, I really got into making a quilt, not just a little project. I can’t wait to see all that you will publish. Thank you. Mema
Good ideas here, Laura. I like the idea of saying goodbye to a project that may no longer be to your liking. I have taken a couple of online classes where I am excited to learn a new technique and had initially tied those to bigger aspirations, like making a whole quilt. I have given myself permission to ditch the idea of having to make a quilt and instead just appreciate that I learned something new and have expanded my capabilities. I sometimes like to do improve patchwork just to free my mind and not have to measure and follow steps and a few of my learning projects end up being incorporated into those.
Someone in my guild made a quilt that might inspire you! She takes a lot of workshops and used very similar color palettes and even the same colors to make blocks in all the workshops. Then when our guild had a 10 year anniversary challenge to make quilts inspired by what our guild means to us, she put all those blocks together and they made a beautifully cohesive quilt! Maybe you could start using similar or complementary colors when you take workshops or learn new techniques and make a similar quilt! That way you can just have one pile of blocks that grows with each class instead of an ever-growing pile of WIPs!
I’ve learned that my less-than-loved WIP may be another quilter’s inspiration. My quilting guild has a Get ‘er Done table where you can place unfinished works when we have in-person meetings. Someone will pick it up and put their spin on it. It might be adding a new design dimension, enlarging, or just finishing it with batting and a backing…then back to the Get ‘er Done table for someone else to take up and finish with quilting and binding. These quilts are then donated to our community. It’s encouraging to know you learned along the way and others are inspired by what you started.
Cool idea to turn WIPs into community quilt projects that get donated! My guild had a meeting focused on WIPs where we broke into small groups to discuss our pain points in the quilt (were we stuck on quilting, do we not like the fabric anymore, etc) and what to do to move forward. In a lot of cases, moving forward meant giving a WIP to another guild member who really liked it! Guilds can be so wonderful like that 🙂
I love the suggestions on how to organize and tackle the unfinished quilts! Can’t wait to get mine started!
I love the idea of the three tiered cart on rolling wheels. I ordered mine and should be getting it today. The idea of 3 projects and having that visual by looking at the cart where everything is organized ready to go will be a great motivator. I am enjoying all your articles on getting organized. Those magazine files for my fabrics has made a big difference. Thank you for your tips.
That’s so nice! I just love helping people get organized and I’m delighted to hear that my tips have helped you. I hope you can conquer your WIP pile with your three-tier cart!
These are awesome suggestions. I can’t wait to use your ideas. I love, love LOVE your colors for the mod mountain quilt. Please be sure to show us when you are done with the top!
Thanks so much, Vanessa! So glad you like the suggestions! Once I finish my Mod Mountains, hopefully this spring/summer, I’ll be sure to post it on my personal Instagram @sonicstitches 🙂
I love this! It’s just the motivation I have needed and I love the pdf included. I’m a very visual person, so having something written down hanging on the wall in front of me will be the perfect reminder that I have some WIP’s to finish. I just got my fabric all organized this last month, so I’m ready to tackle some projects. Thank you!
Oh yay, Estelle! I’m a very visual person also, and I just love checking things off a list to help me feel closer to done with a project. Way to go with all your organization!
Thank you for this great article. My goal for 2022 was too finish 2 quilt tops that I have before starting a new project. I pieced the backs and am actually quilting the one on my domestic machine. I’m proud of myself for checking this off my list.
I’m proud of you too! Three cheers! That’s such a manageable goal and I love that you’re almost there already 🙂
I have been working on gathering my WIP in the same place in January. And that happens to be a 3 tiered cart:). I was able to finish two of my year old (at least) WIPs in January. I am excited to keep moving on. Only about 18 more. I am hoping to finish out the year with very few WIPs. Thank you for all of the great ideas!
You’re welcome, I’m glad this post could help! Eighteen is a big pile of WIPs to get through for sure, but it sounds like you’ve made a very great realistic plan in place to wrap those quilts up! I hope the energy of starting to finish them sustains you through the end of the year! 🙂
I cannot wait to see your blue Holiday Party Quilt! What woven/color did you pair with the blue and silver fabric? It’s gorgeous!
Thanks! It’s a Dobby Stitch woven in Lake, one of my favorite fabrics!