Tips to Finish Projects

Tips to Finish Projects

It is time for another work in progress report on how the blocks are going for my Diamond block crazy quilt.

Last week I mentioned that this project was very much a  WISP (Work in Slow Progress) as making it is steady but slow. 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. To me a project is a UFO when I have not touched it for 12 months anything else is just taking its time.

I think it is is important to recognise that hand made thing take time. In a world in which things are made quickly cheaply and without care its important to recognise the value in slowing down and simply understanding that with hand work the process is slow and often slow out of choice.

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 third or three quarter of the way through. I would love to know if others have this too. I have established a few ways of working that gets m over these phases. The first is seeing it for what it is- a hump to work through.

I also rotate projects. For instance at the moment I am work these diamond blocks and my long band sampler. I am switching back and forth between the two so that one does not bore me.  I do have a Charm quilt on the go too.  This is one of my finishing techniques. It sounds crazy but in taking on more I find that the bounce back and forth helps keep me interested. But, there is a limit to this technique, if I take on too much the whole scheme falls in a heap as the bounce with the associated energy and enthusiasm for a project does not happen. 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.

The other thing I do is to be clear before I start that I really want to make what ever it is and not just getting carried away with an idea. A studio journal helps me sort this out.

How do you avoid UFOs? How do you classify your projects? Do you have a clear distinction in your mind about what is a WISP (work in slow progress) a WIP ( work in progress) and a UFO ( Un-Finished Object) ? If so how do you motivate yourself to complete a large project? What are your tips to finish a project?

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. Lets share our tips I am sure everyone will enjoy reading them.


From Crazy Quilting

As you can see I have another Diamond Block completed

From Crazy Quilting

I have been using detached chain stitch quite a bit lately and this is one of the seams worked in a hand dyed cotton. The straight stitches are a gold metallic thread and the seam is finished off with both seed and bugle beads.

From Crazy Quilting

This detail is also a mix of chain stitch and straight stitch but this time finished off with silk ribbon roses and seed beads.

From Crazy Quilting

On this seam I first worked feather stitch using ribbon floss. The small metal flowers are placed on the end of each spine and held on with a seed bead while a bugle bead is tucked in the fork of the feather stitch.

If you click on the images you can go to a larger version and when on that page click on the magnify glass icon in the top right to see things even larger.

The back story

If you are interested in the back story of this quilt and seeing photos of each block as it was made browse the posts  in the Diamond block crazy quilt category

Posts on How to assemble a Crazy Quilt which include;

Online Crazy Quilting Classes:

Just a quick reminder for those who are interested in taking a class with me. You will find all my classes listed under the top tab imaginatively titled Classes online you will also find information on how online classes are run.


  1. I used to have one day of the week set aside as my “UFO Day” (back then it was a Tuesday) – a bit silly, but I’d have a numbered list of all my UFO’s, and I’d have all my UFO’s in zip-lock baggies with all their supplies kitted up and ready to be stitched on at a moment’s notice. I had a little contained filled with numbered tiddlywinks, and every Tuesday I’d pull a number out, and have to work for at least one length of thread (but preferably the whole night) on whichever project matched that number. This particularly worked well for those projects that I wasn’t really keen to work on, but eventually a few pieces got finished off that way and it really felt good to see some of those older projects sitting in the finished pile 🙂 In fact, I extended that idea when I was using a rotation system a wee while ago (before I moved to Sydney) – I used to have 10 hour slots, and one slot was always set aside for UFO’s … I’d use the same method by drawing a name out of the proverbial hat, but had to work on it for 10 hours before moving on to the next thing – that really worked a treat! And if it was something I was really struggling with, I’d allow myself to cut it down to 5 hours. In fact, I really should start that rotation thing happening again!!

  2. Two cents worth –

    I just left a comment on your blog but wanted to say I agree that finishing one piece before starting another as knowing something is waiting always pushes me a bit.
    Also your point about planning and not starting a project has happened to me too which is why I do not buy anything until the project is about to start. There is a few exceptions to this – a family/autobiographical quilt that i have been putting things aside to use in for years – but that is not quite the same as shopping for something you plan – but at least it makes me prioritise what I want to make

  3. Sharon, I am really enjoying seeing each of your diamonds as they appear — although it is a WISP, I am trying to be patient about seeing the whole thing one day!

    I’ve taken up your challenge and tried to come up with my own strategies–see http://beche-la-mer.blogspot.com/2008/09/ufos-wips-and-wisps.html –and now I have an additional incentive to finish my quilt, because so many more people will know of my procrastination than before!

    Thank you for raising this subject and to your other readers who have added their two cents’ worth.

  4. Tyanne I have just read your blog post. It will be interesting to see if your proposed solution helps. As it seems very common to hit that hump, I think stitchers/quilters need to develop strategies to get us past this point.

  5. Interesting discussion. I like Marg B’s suggestion of setting an amount of time we need to work on a project in a given day. I sometimes do my housework like that. Set a timer for 15 minutes, and do all I can, then set the timer for 30 minutes and work on something I want to work on and repeat through the day. This works really well on those days that the house needs cleaning and I just can’t find the motivation or interest to do so. The rest of my thoughts on this can be found on my blog. http://www.tyquilts.com/blog

  6. My WIPs are all WISPs – but that is good. Why ‘Humps’ occur is interesting and how people deal with them even more so. I find that sometimes if I am having trouble in moving on I just need to ‘eat the elephant’ – a bite at a time. I make a list (how month-appropriate is that?) and allocate a time,say 10-30 minutes, to anything I want to accomplish on a particular day and really stick to that schedule if at all possible. I find I just can’t bear to sit and look at something for more than a couple of minutes so something gets done- if it was a real struggle I do the same the next day and perhaps the one after and then all of a sudden I don’t want to stop. The clock watching is usually a very short term exercise – one or two days.

    My UFO’s are really unfinished projects begun many years ago in various media that includes some embroidery that is over 50 years untouched – a record, maybe- that I should follow Paula’s example and repurpose or pass them on. Almost a museum collection – they have aged so well! Recently I began to discipline myself to small items, especially in embroidery, and to not start more than 3 things at any one time. I find that seems to work for me.

    I understand Paula’s difficulty in beginning a new project – for many years I found that for weaving I needed a warp wound and ready to go (all the decision making was then complete) before I finished the work on my loom. UFOs are difficult on a loom – there is no choice – one can’t start weaving before the previous one is finished.

    Sorry Sharon this ended up being quite wordy – I should have followed Sarah’s example. However thankyou for making me think it through.

  7. I find it interesting that we all have a hump and have different ways of getting through it

    Paula your point about being the way we think about is taken. Re-purposing UFOs are a great way to make them disappear – guilt free!

    Sarah- Do swing back and leave a link if you do write something in your blog as I am sure people would love to follow and read about it

    Marg Your point about a deadline is a good one and one that drives many – that is how challenges work too – its a line, a point that people set a gaol to work towards.

  8. For me i think the difference between WISPs and UFO is one of intent. UFOs i have no intention of finishing. I dont have many UFOs lying around, becaue once ive decided i am not going to finish them i repurpose them or give them away, anything else is a WIP or WISP as I will get around to finishing them (or repurposing them!)one day.
    As for projects I ussually have a few projects on the go – usually one handpieced quilt, one machine pieced quilt and a couple of embroidery projects. However recently i focussed on one project (a hand embroidered book) and i found the focus great while working on the book, however now its finshed and i dont have any other embroidery projects started I have become a bit aimless. Normally i would have at least one other project started before the last one was completed.

    I have the hump problem – probably at the same time you do. I tend to work through it, usually by starting something else more ‘interesting’ and then telling myself i have to finish the first thing before I can work too much on the second (which ties in with my last point) – I didnt get the hump problem with my book, hence no new project. so maybe the hump is good!

  9. Sharon,
    First, I’m SO glad you made a separate category for the Diamond Block CQ — THANK YOU!

    Next, I, too, get “paused” (hit the hump) about 3/4 of the way through a project. Sometimes it takes some real prodding for me to get myself going again. I liked your thoughts on the matter, and I believe I’ll blog my reaction rather than take up your comment space. I probably will do so this afternoon and will link back to this post when I do.

    Thanks again so very much!!

  10. I agree with you about ‘getting over the hump’. I find that it helps to pay attention to the urge to work through it. If no such urge hits, sometimes a deadline will be sufficient motivation to sit down and “Just Do It”.

    I too have a variety of items in rotation, and not in just one medium!

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