09 October 2014

The Power of WIPs

Power of WIPs

A new quarter has begun in Ravelry's UFO Club. Each quarter, we make a list of unfinished quilts, with the goal of finishing at least one. I love this group because it's forcing/motivating/inspiring me to get serious about finishing quilting projects that have hung on my quilt rack way too long.

Recently, a commenter labeled my then-17-WIP (Work In Progress) collection "excessive." Some of my WIPs are awaiting quilting, and I'm trying to build confidence to machine quilt them because that's faster than hand-quilting, which I love, by the way. But also, many of my quilts in progress are leftovers from other projects. Sometimes I don't have a plan when I start a leftover quilt, and I'm just playing until the creative juices begin to flow. And sometimes, I don't yet have enough leftovers to finish. One project in particular is intended to be a multi-year process so I can document my changing tastes and skill levels as I go.

In addition, during my first quarter in the UFO Club, I finished a mini wall quilt I'd forgotten about and had not included in my official list. So the finish didn't count in the club, although it was still acknowledged and cheered. So these days, every quilting project I have ever started but not finished, even if finishing isn't really a goal anymore, is on The List because I want each finish to count!

That said, if you think my UFO collection is excessive, you should see my unfinished crochet projects!!!

This quarter, I'm hoping to finish a quilt that has been on the Christmas wish list of my sister-in-law for at least two years. I'm also hoping to finish a quilt for a nephew who is getting married in November. Any other finished quilts are a bonus.

Here are the current WIPs on my quilt rack and in my sewing room/bedroom, guest bedroom and fabric stash, in no particular order:

Hawaiian Applique Quilt Squares

Hawaiian Compass

(1) Hawaiian Compass. This project was begun after I won a trip to Hawaii during a singles dance. I discovered Hawaiian quilting on the Big Island, and I hope to one day have time to do more Hawaiian quilting because I really love the way it looks, and the hand-applique and outline quilting is extremely relaxing for me.

my third compass

After I finished the initial twelve blocks, I fell in love with the Mariner's Compass and decided that would be the perfect center for the quilt. I've made three now, and none are perfect. I don't want an imperfect compass in this quilt, so I have to make another one. I also need a plan for the framing elements, and I've always thought flying geese might be the best visual approach.

final tweak

(2) Snowflake Heartburn. This is one of my oldest WIPs. I think I began it in about 1995, and when I first began, I was making (and modifying) snowflakes from pattern books and magazines I'd collected over the years. This had been my standby project when I was bored, which was rare, while I was still raising my kids. After they left home, I got serious about quilting, and this was the most important WIP in my collection. I wanted to finish it for an upcoming quilt show.

By that time, I was designing my own snowflakes, so I started over from scratch on the hand applique portion of the project and made all new snowflakes from my own patterns, even adapting a couple of patterns so they'd fit on the blocks. I was so excited to finally begin piecing what I thought would be my favorite quilt of all time.

However, this also was my very first attempt at machine quilting, and the blocks were cut long before I had all the proper quilting tools. The blocks don't match up evenly, and my machine quilting still needs about 990 hours of practice before I can claim to be truly good at it.

I don't know if I will ever finish this one, and I've threatened a couple of times to turn the individual blocks into potholders. But just in case I ever do decide to finish it as a quilt, I want it to count. More than any other project I have. Because this one causes heartburn every time I look at it.

Square Robin Progress

(3) Square Robin. This quilt top isn't square anymore, and the story behind it is one of my favorites. Back before most everyone had home computers and internet access, I discovered an online Row Robin/Round Robin quilting group. My kids had left home, and I'd downsized from a three-bedroom town home to a tiny one-bedroom apartment. I wasn't dating. All I was doing was working, volunteering and book club. I thought a Round Robin would be the ultimate way to jump back into life with a huge splash. I joined the group and purchased my first fat quarter bundle ever, then sat back to impatiently await assignments.

A month later, the new robin groups were posted, and I searched and searched the lists. My name was nowhere to be found. I contacted the group administrator, who apologetically informed me she had somehow dropped my name from the list, and I'd have to wait six months for the next groups.

Fat chance! By this time, I HAD begun dating, and although quilting was still high on my list of things I wanted to do, I wasn't in the mood to wait to use up my beautiful fat quarters. Those fat quarters went on to become Hawaiian Compass. I needed a new fat quarter bundle but decided I wanted to use my own colors instead of colors someone else chose. I made my own new fat quarter bundle with yards instead of quarter yards of luscious handpaints, to which I'd become thoroughly addicted. (I'm still hopelessly addicted, although sometimes now I dye my own instead of buying them.)

My goal was to make one round each year, using my favorite quilting elements of each year. I also hoped to document my growth as a quilter as I went along. The goal was to have a finished quilt top in about six years, and the original plan was to use only the handpaints I'd bought then. The original plan also was for a square quilt in the end.

Dating turned into marriage, and somehow this project got buried on the quilt rack until last year. So I've skipped a few years of quilting tastes and skills progress, and my handpaint collection has grown to include lots of new colors. In addition, I now want the quilt to be rectangular instead of square. Perhaps all this helps document my growth as a quilter and my design and taste as well. This project is absolutely no hurry, and when I do pull it out to work on it, I have such fun remembering all the details building this quilt's story.

playin' with layouts

(4) Leaf Me Alone. This project began its life as a full-length, long-sleeved dress I wear to work all autumn and sometimes into winter. I had enough fabric leftover from the dress to make a quilt if I incorporated other fabrics, too, so I made the brown square. I had some brown handpaints I didn't really like and didn't plan to use on anything else, so they were perfect for what at the time was without a plan. I was just playing with fabric.

leaf dress

I think when I first began this, I wanted to use some of my blue snowflake fabric collection for a blue square and some of my green floral batiks for a green square. Marriage, mountain climbing, cycling and calendar building pushed this project onto the quilt rack until I got bored one day and pulled it out again and finished the green square with green handpaints instead of batiks, simply because I had enough fabric leftover from another project. Now I had a plan. I would use more handpaints for more squares, using colors from the leaf fabric to determine the square colors.

I didn't have enough handpaints in the colors I needed, so I slowly began building the stash and didn't work on this again for a long time. When I featured it in my blog after finishing the yellow square, my sister-in-law informed me she wants this quilt. I've intended to finish it for her as a birthday or Christmas gift ever since. Only one square remains to be done. I just haven't done it yet.

Welcome to the Jungle

(5) Welcome to the Jungle. This quilt was my new favorite when I began it. It is made from leftovers from a skirt, a dress and a bag I made with my favorite green batiks, collected over the last six or so years. When I first began this quilt, my only goal was for it to be good enough to enter in the Denver National Quilt Festival. As I worked toward completion of the top, I decided I should machine quilt it instead of hand quilt it because machine stitching offered so many more design elements than I thought I could achieve by hand.

I still love this top more than words can explain, but I haven't finished it yet because I still want it to be perfect, and I don't have the confidence yet to maneuver a quilt this big in my sewing machine.

I've played with long-arm quilting machines twice now, once during the Denver National Quilt Festival, and once at a sewing shop that no longer stocks the particular machine I want. The shop proprietor said I have great machine-drawing skill, which, of course, thrilled me beyond measure. I found I love long-arm quilting, even without any real experience. I hope one day to have my own long-arm, but that is likely to be a very, very long time from now.

blue floral strips

(6) Blue Floral Leftovers, the sequel. My blue floral quilt-to-be doesn't have a name yet. I've made and enjoyed blue floral dresses since I was in high school, and I wear all my handmade dresses until they literally are falling apart at the seams. I save the worn dresses and cut the usable portions into strips. After more than 20 years, I finally had enough variety and enough strips to make a long dress I've been wearing for a couple of years now. Smaller pieces went to the scrap pile for what I hoped might become another quilt one day.

all pieced

Enough blue floral strips were leftover from the dress, I thought I'd make a quilt from them, too. Then last year, I found a blue floral panel with a peacock and fell in love all over again.

Too many temptations!

The quilt did not have a real plan until I picked up this panel. Now it's ready to go! I'm anxious to start putting this quilt together, but my goal has been to finish some of the existing projects before I add another to the quilt rack. Besides, the scrap pile now has yet another well-worn blue floral dress with hues that will beautifully harmonize in this project...


(7) Long Forgotten. This is another project that doesn't have a name yet. This might be the oldest UFO I have. I bought the black and pink coordinates from a clearance rack about 100 years or more ago. Then I found a cheater quilt panel that nearly matched at another clearance in another state. I didn't even remember starting this project, much less owning it, until I was looking for backing for a leftovers quilt, and this popped out. I probably had a plan back then, but I've forgotten it, and I was shocked to discover I'd even completed some Dresden plates I didn't initially remember doing!

I don't know that I want to finish this project now, but it exists, and it might make a nice donation quilt, so it's on The List.

(8) Blue Floral. I don't know if I want to finish this quilt, but I have enough blue floral scraps to make a queen-sized quilt. These scraps are remnants of dresses I've made since high school and usable portions of the actual dresses as they wore out. When I first began piecing blocks from the scrap basket, I was captivated with square and triangle blocks, and I was just looking for something to do on a sleepless night. The finished blocks, plus a few more, might make a nice quilt in a mish-mashed setting, so this project is on my List.

lime convergence

(9) Green Batik Leftovers. While piecing Welcome to the Jungle, I took periodic breaks to craft orphan blocks from leftovers not big enough to be included in the quilt. These blocks also served as boredom quenchers while piecing what seemed like endless log cabin blocks.

I incorporated all but one of these blocks into a wall quilt that ended up showing in the 2014 Denver National Quilt Festival. I don't know what will become of the remaining block, but it might grow up into a real quilt project one day because I never get tired of looking at floral green batiks and dreaming, and although I'm making great progress, I still have plenty of floral green batik leftovers.

The remaining block was supposed to be an attempt at Ricky Tims' Convergence.

fraternal twins

twinkle toes

46 squares of lizards to sew, 46 squares to sew, take one down, zig zag around, 45 squares of lizards to sew...

(10) Lizard Toes, 576 of them! Named for the memorable and not always pleasant cutting of all those toes. These are more leftovers from the clothing, bag and quilt top I've already fashioned from my now shrinking collection of green floral batiks. All 48 blocks and 48 lizards are cut out; ten blocks are completely done as of June 30, 2014. (And not touched once since then!)

It quilts!

(11) Snow-Dyed. Oh, how I love to snow-dye fabric!!! Which means I have a bit to use up before the next big dump happens. (My long-standing rule, often broken, is no more fabric until some of the existing quilts are complete. Now my new rule is no more dyeing until the existing snow-dyed fabric is used up. We'll see if I can resist breaking that rule when the snow begins piling up again...) About eight blocks are finished now.

Turtle Sherbet

(12) Turtle Sherbet needs just quilting and binding.


(13) Skinned. Made entirely from leftovers, this top needs just quilting and binding.

the first square

(14) Tickled Pink. This was my second attempt at designing my own fabric, and this block in particular was because I couldn't resist cutting into my first yard of my second fabric. I had digitally manipulated photos from The Wave in January into snowflakes, and I tinted them pink in honor of a friend who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. Initially, I thought this block might make a great baby blanket, if I made a few more. But then I remembered one of my friends helps direct the Race for the Cure, and I think she needs a pink quilt.

under the sea

(15) Under the Sea. Oh, do I have a plan for this one! But I can't start sewing it until I finish some of the other quilts. All the strips are cut and ready to go.

hst skins

(16) Skinned, the Sequel. I still have leftovers and leftover blocks from Skinned, and they'd make a great donation quilt, so this project is on my List.

my dress ripped

(17) Boohoo Hexies. I tripped and ripped one of my favorite dresses while watering my garden this summer. Normally, I try to patch dress booboos so I can keep wearing the dresses until they are no longer useful as clothing. This rip was right across... well, my derrière. It wasn't at all patchable. All that fabric! Not wasted! No sirree! I decided to use what's left of the dress to make something else I can love and wear to death.

Yipes!  Stripes!

(18) Broken Promises. This quilt top was created in a day to reward myself for retouching wedding and vacation photos during the summer. Now this quilt is destined as a wedding gift, so I really need to change the name. And I'm thinking this might actually be the quilt back instead of the quilt front because I have so many more ideas for using up my gradients. Plus, I'd get to start a new project without really starting a new project! Win/win!

I heart animal skin fabric.

(19) All Heart. While making Skinned, I found a length of fabric my daughter had used to cut a tiny heart – from the center – and decided this needs to be a quilt. I've actually finished the layers now; I found the PERFECT backing in my stash!!! This just needs to be quilted! This will be AWESOME free-motion quilting practice!


(20) Tickled Pink, the sequel. I cut 5-inch charm squares from each of my pink fabrics, thanks to inspiration born of the dejection I experienced when I opened a very old package of teal mini charms, the very same blocks in my next bullet point. Although #21 is an endangered project, the pink one WILL get done because I LOVE these blocks. So much that I made a second set to sell in my Etsy shop.

sort of teal

(21) Ummmm, maybe not... I bought this charm pack in a sealed plastic bag years ago when my dear friend Shonna was going through chemo and battling ovarian cancer. I do not remember why I didn't make the intended quilt then, but I did make a different quilt for Shonna.

Last month, I found the charm pack, which I didn't remember being a MINI charm pack (the squares are 3 inches wide instead of 5), while looking for stash backing for another quilt. September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, so I thought, wow! I ought to put this thing together! I bought two different teal shades of now-discontinued Toscana so I could make the quilt, but when I opened the package to see the squares under the top one (top left in the photo), I was horrified at how ugly some of the tiny blocks are. Plus, some of the blocks aren't teal at all.

I may just end up replacing the ugly squares (not shown) with teal remnants of my own. I may have a few scraps that will fit in better than what was included in the original package, but I haven't searched my stash yet. In the meantime, I am not willing to waste the Toscana on repulsive mini charms!!!


(22) Gemtones. I made this quilt square to illustrate a blog post. Although three of the points do not meet perfectly, I love the fabric and the pattern, plus, I have tons of gem tones in my stash, and I just found another block pattern that will work stunningly with this block.

the teabags

(23) The Teabags. I can't forget the teabags! I started them about four years ago, and I found them again last week when they fell off their shelf in the quilting stash and onto the floor. I really need to finish the teabags!


(24) From Black Comes Gorgeous. Last summer, my hollyhock thread- and yarn-dyeing was so successful and SO gorgeous, I decided to try dyeing strips of fabric, too. I cut 24 2.5-inch strips of white Kona cotton, mordanted them in alum and cream of tartar, then let them soak in juice made from vinegar, rainwater and black hollyhock blossoms from my garden for two weeks. I love the wide range of colors I got, but I can't piece these strips until I finish a few more quilts.

Is that motivation to finish, or what?!?


après wash

Linking up with Confessions of a Fabric Addict here.


  1. Wow, really wow, you just keep on going and creating indeed. That peacock really stands out. We used to have them in the backyard honking away haha

    1. We used to have peacocks next door when we lived in the metro, Pat. I love their honking! I know it drives some others wild, but I love their "song" and miss it tremendously!

  2. Wow, such a collection of beauty, and so many labor of love hours. I have one goal still, that is to create on quilt that is a combination of our family, wide spread with my children in law's family as well. One that will be a family legacy.

    1. Karen, that is going to be one amazing quilt if you do get it done! I'd love to see it as you work on it!

  3. Another wow! I wasn't aware of so many WIPs. I don't think I can pick a favorite, yet. I like the Hawaiian Compass. I like the peacock panel too. Hmmmm... I also like Snowflake Heartburn. Teabags is pretty cool. Hmmmm...

    1. Ha ha! I keep them neatly hidden, don't I?!? That will make finishing some of the quilts destined for our own use more of a surprise as they get done, won't it? Thanks for being such a supportive husband of a quilter/crocheter/knitter/stitcher/writer and photographer with a serious case of startitis!

  4. I really love the first two quilts you listed. I always admire appliqué because I don't do it. Enjoy working on your goals.

    1. Thanks, Jasmine! It's actually fund when I discover a new project I'd long forgotten. Sort of like Christmas morning...

  5. this was quite interesting to read and view ! :) Much more so than seeing someone who made a simple quilt in a week and sent it off to a long armer...you have staying power! :)

    1. Thank you so much, Deb! I think that's one of my best comments of the entire year!!!

  6. hmph, UFO's are little starters, and I shake my head at someone saying excessive. I must have a hundred of them, and I know I have finished over 200 quilts in my time. They are all fun looking, and if practicing machine quilting holds you back then practice on one of them.
    Don't forget machine quilting is walking foot as well as free motion. With the walking foot you can use a program stitch as well. I break down big quilts into units to quilt as I work on my home machine, then it's not too difficult. UFO's don't bother anyone, they sit politely waiting.
    LeeAnna at not afraid of color

    1. THANK YOU, Leeanna!!! You are so empowering!!! And it's so good to hear someone else has a bunch waiting, too.

      Most of these will be for practice so I can be better than I am when I get to the real stuff. :)

  7. The teabags fell off the shelf when we were there, too ... scared the heck out of me as I was standing about a foot away when it happened, and thought I must have somehow ruined your careful stash arrangement! :)

    Hawaiian Compass - I keep thinking of alternate names. Sailing to Maui ... Slow Boat to Hawaii ....

    Your WIPs are NOT excessive. Any true artist will always have an overflow of both ideas and projects. (If you could see my desk, you would realise that I too am a True Artist. Either that or a yarn volcano erupted nearby.) Keep creating!

    1. Oh, my, Sue! I'm so sorry I frightened you with my tea bags, too! They did the very same thing to me. I jumped so high, I think I nearly touched the roof!!!

      I'm hoping I come up with a better name for the Hawaiian quilt one day, too. Maybe as I begin putting it together (it's my second quilt-as-you-go), inspiration will was tropical...

      Thank you for believing my WIPs are not excessive. I agree it's a healthy thing to have an overflow of ideas and projects, but I do hope one day to not have quite as many unfinished quilts because of the amount of space they take up, not because I want to be finished quilting for forever. :)


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