Quilt making is often a marathon activity. Sure, you may run the occasional sprint like a jelly roll race quilt or a small wall hanging. But in many cases, the process of making a quilt is much more like a long, long run, requiring many hours of effort and an ability to get across the finish line despite exhaustion of one kind or another. It’s not easy. Most of us have UFO’s to prove it. Some of us have MANY UFOs to prove it.
How we feel when we finish a quilt!
So what separates the finishers from the also-rans? In my experience and in talking with quilters of every skill level, age, and walk of life, your ability to finish a quilt boils down to 3 main factors:
Urgency – How badly do you need this quilt to be finished? This above all else determines the likelihood you will complete the project. Deadlines are amazing motivators, so don’t shy away from setting them for yourself if they don’t naturally occur. Think about it – when a baby is about to arrive, you are very likely going to finish that crib quilt, even if it means late nights or laundry piling up.
In cases where there is no “real” deadline, try making a schedule for yourself and see your finish lines improve. One of the most prolific quilters I’ve ever known worked out a quilting schedule at the turn of every year, planning which projects she’d work on each month and setting up quilting times and achievable deadlines for herself. Try it and see if it ramps up your sense of urgency and motivation!
Skill set – Are you confident in the quilting techniques required to make this project? If not, do you have help and support lined up? For example, if you’ve never done the foundation (paper) piecing technique before and all of your quilt blocks require it, you’re going to need instruction and assistance to get the job done. In-person or online classes, books, and videos can all help.
What’s more, some skills have a more important role to play in finishing a quilt than others. Quilting projects tend to stall out after the quilt top is complete. It’s the biggest hurdle point for most quilters. Up until the top is done, it’s all fun and games. Playing with fabric, happily stitching, it’s the reason we quilt! But then…it needs to be quilted. And bound. And here’s where we falter.
Invest in some classes or other instruction on quilting techniques and how to bind a quilt, practice your finishing skills until you establish your own favorite and comfortable methods, and the percentage of completed projects in your future skyrockets.
Stamina – Are you taking care of your physical and mental energy and health? Quilting may not seem like an activity requiring either…you’re just sitting around sewing, right? But you can’t quilt without a body and a mind, and a body and mind in good working order will serve you well in finishing your quilts.
Machine quilting and binding are especially tough on the bod, requiring handling substantial weight and manipulating it using arms, shoulders, back, neck, etc. Ergonomics are important here. Same goes for your mental stamina. Having a quilting routine, encouraging yourself with anything that inspires and energizes you (guild meetings, music, a functional and pretty work space, quilt shows, quilting magazines, the occasional chocolate splurge), all these things will help keep you in a position where finishing your project is much more likely. Get strong and stay strong – quilting itself can help build stamina, just as a training schedule of short runs can help condition a runner in advance of that marathon!
I hope these ideas will help you get perspective on how to finish a quilt, and encourage you to make small changes to improve your finishing quotient. It’s not a quilt until it’s quilted and bound, and paying attention to factors like urgency, skill set, and stamina will help get you there 100% of the time.