Last week I was asked how I manage large projects. I thought I would share a few tips alongside my latest block for the lace quilt. This block 24.
If you click on the image you will see a large photo.
Ok so here are my tips to manage large projects. What are yours?
Tip 1 Recognise hand crafted takes time
I think it is is important to recognise that hand made things take time. In a world in which things are made quickly cheaply and sometimes without care, there is value in slowing down and simply understanding that with hand work the process is slow and often done out of choice.
I recognise when somethings going to take time complete. I don’t waste energy beating myself up over not getting it done I just enjoy the process of doing. I also think and talk about them in a way that recognises this aspect of time. I refer to projects as WISPs (Work in Slow Progress) as the making of them is steady and slow.
Many people call slow projects UFO’s (un-Finished Objects) I think it is a mistake as the term does not recognise that some worthwhile projects are large, ambitious and take time. Projects like this I don’t call UFO’s as they are gradually growing rather than being whipped up quickly. I received another email through the week in which the correspondent conflated the two terms. To me they are quite different. A project is a UFO when I have not touched it for 12- 18 months. Any other project is just taking its time.
Tip 2 Plan the time it will take.
If I know something is going to be a large project I always work little samples and diagram it out in my studio journal. By the time I have done this I am clear that I really want to make what ever it is and I am not just getting carried away with an idea. A studio journal helps me sort this out. I work out how long it is likely to take to make and then figure out if the idea appeals enough for me to spend so much time on it. For instance if a crazy quilt block takes me about 10 hours to make then if I want to make a quilt of 20 blocks I know it is going to take about 200 hours to make the quilt before assembly. If I spend 5 hours a week on it the quilt is likely to take just under a year. I then decide if I really want to spend that amount of my time on the project.
Tip 3 Cost the project and have the required materials in one place
I gather all the materials I need for the project together. I cost out what I will need to complete it. I have seen projects stalled because either the budget ran out and some particular threads or item was needed to complete it. For instance if you knit it is common to buy all the wool required at one time so that you have the same dyelot. For some reason some stitchers do not do this.
Or sometimes things are planned such as using a particular item and it gets lost. I once saw a crazy quilt project stall because the person concerned could not find a lace hankie of her mothers that she wanted to include. Since the quilt was about her mother, she was stuck until she found it. The problem is that by the time the hankie was uncovered in her stash the quilt blocks had long gone to the back of the cupboard. So the project stalled and other things caught her interest.
I always recommend that everything is gathered together at the start of project and kept together for the duration of the project.
Tip 4 Recognise projects have cycles
Often we start a large project with loads of enthusiasm but after a few months it starts to wane. This is common particularly with tasks that are repetitive. The trick is to stay on track and set a small block of time aside to work on it each week. It depends on how busy your life is but working on something steadily will progress things along.
That said there is often a stage in large projects where you have to push yourself to get it done. I find I always have a bit of hump about two thirds or three quarters of the way through the process of making something. This stage is very difficult and is often the point when a project gets put tot the back of the cupboard and becomes a UFO. I see it for what it is, a hump to work through. This is where I just keep on plodding as I know it is a phase that will pass. One of the methods I use to get me past this phase is a blog! Writing about it keeps me on track , keep me focused and helps me over the hump. of course this Work in Progress Wednesdays is supposed to help and prevent projects form languishing in the cupboard.
Tip 5 Rotate projects
One way I get over this hump phase is to rotate projects. For instance at the moment I am working on the lace quilt blocks, the Crazy Quilt Journal Project 2012 and while I am developing the stitchers worksheets I also work on my long band sampler. I am switching back and forth between them so that one does not bore me.
But, there is a limit to this technique. I have found that if I have too many projects on the go the whole scheme falls in a heap. It seems that if it is too long between picking up a project because I have too much on the go the whole bundle of projects becomes dull and uninteresting. The maximum number of largish things on the go for me is about 4. I try and keep it under control and am dying to start another CQ project that I am thinking about but until I finnish one I will have the idea on hold.
Tip 6 Don’t allow projects to grow
One thing that can happen is in the early stage of a project it can creep to something larger. For instance at the moment the lace quilt will have 49 blocks in it. I have planned to have them set 7 blocks across and 7 down producing a square quilt. I am enjoying these blocks they are 7 inches square and a very nice size to work. I am very tempted to make instead of a square quilt an oblong quilt of of 7 x 9 blocks. That however means I would have to work 63 blocks. That is 14 blocks more. Allowing the project to grow can mean that it does not get done. Although I am flexible with my planning and do allow for change I try to keep the scope of the project from growing too much.
Tip 7 Don’t stop
I don’t stop when I get stuck somewhere. I often have a block where I am not sure quite what to do with it next. I have it roughly planned out but nothing I try on it seems to sit right. If I am in this situation I set it to one side and work on another block. Usually as I am working the solution pops into my mind.
Join in and leave a comment!
How do you motivate yourself to complete a large project? What are your tips to finish a project? How do you avoid UFOs? Do you have a clear distinction in your mind between a WISP (work in slow progress) a WIP (work in progress) and a UFO (Un-Finished Object)?
Feel free to leave a comment here. Or, if you have a blog write about your thoughts and leave a comment here with a link to your post, so people can go and read what you think. I am sure everyone will enjoy reading them.
Have you made progress this week?
If you have made progress on a large project leave a comment with a link to your site. (If you include the http bit it will become a link and folks can visit) Need more information about this? Take a look at the Work in Progress Wednesdays FAQ
All my Work in Progress Wednesday reports are under that category.