Friday, November 20, 2015

Finishing a Small Quilt: Make a Plan

Wouldn't it be nice to have a collection of small quilts hanging on your wall or stacked in a cupboard? You know I love making my small quilts and, if you're following my blog, you probably do too. Playing around with fabric and making something quick like a small quilt can be a lot of fun and an instant stress buster. Having a wall or cupboard of quilts is not a difficult goal if you have a plan. The quilters who accomplish the most always have a plan. Those quilts don't magically appear on a wall or in a cupboard, haha.

My wall.

My friend Julia's wall and cupboard.

For the past few years my Yahoo Small Quilt Group (and, more recently, my Facebook Small Quilt Lovers Group) have attempted to make one small quilt a month from various patterns in my books. Some members make all of these challenges and some just make a few. Quite a few do nothing at all. And I frequently get e-mails from some of them telling me they feel bad about this. Every year I give my group suggestions to help the members organize and plan in order to accomplish some of these goals. Don't waste time feeling bad about not accomplishing your goals. Instead, do something concrete to fix it. I think my plan is especially worth repeating here if you're participating in our current red & white small quilt challenge in the online groups and are beginning to feel overwhelmed. If you're sewing along with us, the deadline for finishing and showing your quilts is December 15.   

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Along with the red & white challenge, we're also coming up on a new year -  the time some of you mentally pledge to make a whole bunch of small quilts during the course of that year. I know many of you get very busy with other things at times. So much can get in the way of our quilting. We get overwhelmed by life, stressed out and tired. I know the feeling.

Make a choice to take time for yourself to create some of  the small quilts you love and drool over that are saved on your Pinterest page. Trust me, you'll feel much better about actually making them instead of just looking at them. It does not take as long as you think. If you really want a wall of quilts, then make a plan to make one small quilt a month. If this month and next are too busy with the upcoming holidays, start in January. If you keep up, by the end of the year you'll have made 12 small quilts. Or, perhaps five or six, or maybe only two or three, but still better than none. Nothing wrong with having small goals. They help you achieve bigger goals.

Every year I post my suggestions on how to get these quilts finished so bear with me if I sound like a broken record. Here's the hard part - If you're determined to make a quilt a month you have to discipline yourself and really really want to make them. Like anything else worthwhile, you have to WANT to do it. That's the only way it's going to happen. Make that commitment to yourself.

My cupboard overfloweth at times. Right now it's under control.

Some quilters have time to sit down and sew for hours every day and can make a lot of progress in one sitting. But that's not always easy or practical for most of us. We have jobs and families and full lives as well as other hobbies and interests or maybe disabilities that keep us from sitting or stitching for too long. Don't beat yourself up over this. Break up your small quilting into regular chunks of time and don't pressure yourself to make a whole quilt all at once. If you do it this way, I think you can easily finish one little quilt every month or so. Then, Voila! -  a wall of quilts. 

So, here's a plan for you. First -  clean up your sewing table a little bit to make sure you have room to work. Then, go get yourself a "Small Quilt" notebook so you can keep track of your progress. (Goody - another reason to run to Target! But don't get too distracted. You have a plan, remember?)  A piece of paper, note cards or even your phone or ipad will do, but I find that a pretty notebook used specifically for quilting works so much better, at least it does for me. Holding it in your hands helps you hold yourself accountable by writing down your small quilt goals every month and doing your best to accomplish some of them. Start at the beginning of a month if possible (clean slate) and take it week by week.

1. First Week - After you've picked out your project, spend an hour or two to choose your fabrics and cut the pieces. Don't pressure yourself to finish the whole quilt that day unless you want to and have the time. Put this somewhere in a zip-lock bag (or that nifty plastic project box you bought after you left Target and stopped at that other store) and leave it out where you can easily see it and return to it.

2. Second Week - Pick a day and time, mark it on your calendar or set a reminder on your phone the day before if you have to. Then, sit down and make your blocks. This also only takes a few hours (sometimes less, because remember, the quilts are small).

3. Third Week - Again, pick a day to put the blocks together. Probably takes an hour or two. Maybe add the border if you have time or at least cut the fabric for it. Cut the binding strips and get those ready.

4. Fourth Week - Finish your borders, layer your quilt with the batting and backing. Spend some time during the rest of the week finishing and quilting. This often takes the most time and can take several evenings for me if I do it by hand, but if you like handwork it can go fast. Binding never takes long and can be very relaxing. Give me some music and I can get lost in the rhythm of quilting or sewing on a binding. This means you're almost finished!

All it takes is a little discipline. Let me REPEAT myself: Write down your goals, break them into smaller parts (goals) and make note of what you have accomplished. Check off those goals! I find I work best with a schedule and some of you may find that helpful too. You just have to keep at it. WISHING and hoping you could make a few quilts or using the "flying by the seat of your pants" method to create them is NOT going to get you there. You need a plan. Spend a few minutes organizing yourself. 

Whenever I have a few projects I need to finish, I write them down in my notebook in an outline fashion. I make a point of breaking each quilt into parts and then checking off the parts as I finish them (Example: 1. cut pieces 2. make blocks 3. sew together 4. add borders 5. quilt it 6. add binding). I make a note to remind myself which quilts need quilting or bindings. This gives me something concrete to look at so I can remember exactly what was accomplished on a certain project and what still needs to get done. Even a little bit of progress makes me feel good about the goal. Sometimes, I'll spend time cutting pieces for several quilts all at once, then work on the steps individually at other times -  perhaps finish a couple of bindings in one session (Small quilts, remember? These bindings aren't that daunting.).

Bottom line - You can do this! The great thing about taking that initial leap is  -  sometimes it gets your creative energy going and you actually accomplish a goal or two or three in one sitting.

I hope you all have a productive weekend.


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Join some of us this month as we make little red & white quilts (see previous posts for details).


Dorry said...

What a wonderfull post! So good. I share it with all my customers who will start at my dollquilt club. Keeps them on track!

Ursula Yeo said...

Thank you for such a positive, encouraging and practical post. I too love to keep a quilt journal. I never tire of hearing about good ideas to make my journal work even better for me. I had never thought of separating out my little quilts but that sounds like a great idea. I really enjoy your blog. ...Ursula

marian said...

Great advice Kathy and definitely worth repeating, thank you! Goal setting and prepping is key to starting any new quilt project, as is a tidy sewing area. Which reminds me, i better get to it lol!!
Looking forward to seeing all the small red & white quilts on Dec 15 :))

quiltgrannie said...

Kathy, I enjoyed this idea the first time you posted it and I enjoyed it again. You are such a great inspiration to this group and help us stay on track so we can accomplish so much more!! And I love seeing all the lovely photos you take and all your beautiful fabrics!! Thanks for taking the time to blog, I really enjoy it!!

susan hemann said...

Great advice, thank you! I have needed a guide for working on small quilts. I have a tendency to overwelm myself at the start.

Mary @ Neat and Tidy said...

What a wonderful idea! Last week I was at a quilt retreat, and I really got into the groove of sewing once again. This week - very little! After reading your post, I realized I need a plan. Thanks for such a great article.

Marie said...

Love your little quilts but I have a question, how to you attach your quilts to the wall without marking it?

Julierose said...

What a great post--I have been thinking about my quiltmaking and I have 4 bigger quilts for my grandchildren (all on their way to college within the next 5 years and the 1st is in progress); and i am tired of hauling big quilts through my, as I am joining in RSC16--I wonder if I could make one small piece in each color of the month this year. Now that would be a challenge for me and give me plenty to quilt in the evenings by hand.....I love your idea of "physically" writing down the 4 sections to be made each month....thanks so much for an illuminating and inspiring post....
Hugs, Julierose

Maxine said...

Thank you, just the advice I needed. I retire in a month so no more excuses. I have already picked my pattern and fabric .

Anonymous said...

Kathy, love your post today. I needed that! I should read it every morning with my coffee, would make for a more productive day. I am happy to say though that I finished piecing my red and white quilt. It's a little school house quilt, now in the process of being quilted. Just not sure how I get a photo to you, not too hep with the technology side of this. Maybe I could call my grandson for instruction?? Your posts are great inspiration and keep me motivated. Thanks a lot for all the sharing.

Kathleen Tracy said...

Marie - I use 3M Command Strips to hang my little quilts or else I sometimes use small applique pins. Neither one damages the walls.


Colleen said...

Great post! Thanks for the inspiration...again :)

I was wondering how you display your quilts. When you use Command strips, do you sew a little plastic ring to the back of your quilts to hang on the hook?

I've been making tons of flying geese just for the practice and have no plan what to do with them...haha. So far I have 96 done :)

Kathleen Tracy said...

Colleen- I don't use the Command hooks. The command Strips I like are double sided sticky so they stick to the back of the quilt and then also the wall with no residue. No need for rings. They're a little pricy but you can reuse them a few times. said...

I like small quilts. They look somehow prettier as for me. Besides you can hang them on the wall as a decoration.


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