Tips for Making Progress on Your Quilt Projects

December 12, 2023

Tips for Making Progress on Your Quilt Projects

Hello quilters! I’m Lisa from Wild Plum Lane, and I’m thrilled to join you here on Elizabeth’s blog today! I’m a Kansas City-based quilt pattern designer who loves helping quilters stay organized and productive to finish their works in progress. Read on for some tips to help you plan out your quilt projects this year and grab your free Simple WIP Inventory to help you easily track next steps on all your quilt projects.

A fresh start for the new year

Can you believe we are starting another year soon?! I know there are some who say that “it’s just another day,” or “you can change your life any day of the year,” and those statements are both 100% true! But I also happen to find a lot of comfort in the openness of a new year, the ritual of planning what could be accomplished, and the prospect of SO much possibility!

Six Simple Steps to Plan Your Quilting Projects

As we head into the new year, below are six simple tips to help you plan and organize your quilt projects in a way that works for you. Let’s all have a productive and FUN quilting journey in 2024! 

#1: Know what quilt projects you have

Before you can start making progress on your quilt projects, you need to know what projects you actually HAVE! I’m sure you’ve seen many downloadable project lists before, but at times recording absolutely everything about a project can feel overwhelming (and might even lower your motivation to get started). For that reason, I’ve created the Simple WIP Inventory printable PDF download for you. 

Take a few moments to print off a page or three (however many you need for your projects!) and take a trip through your sewing space. Write down the name of each project, record the current status (i.e. fabric purchased, fabric cut, blocks pieced, basted, quilted, etc.) and then – and this is important – write down in the last column what your very next step is on the project. 

Do you need to research a specific technique? Purchase a tool or template? Find the right fabric in your stash? Print the pattern? Make the binding? Whatever the next step is, write that (and only that!) down in the final column. The idea here is to ensure that the next time you pick up that project, you know exactly where to start and don’t waste time trying to remember where it was that you left off. 

At the same time, you don’t have to look at a massive list of project steps that you haven’t completed yet…which can leave a person feeling somewhat defeated with all that’s left to do. The Simple WIP Inventory gives you a snapshot of exactly where you are and what the next immediate step is so that you can move the needle forward (pun intended)!

#2: Prioritize your quilt projects

Once your list is ready, it’s time to prioritize your projects! If you have multiple projects going on at once, sometimes it is hard to decide what to do. That indecision often leads to wasted time and procrastination…not to mention the feelings of overwhelm! (My WIP list numbers into the 30’s, friends, so don’t feel overwhelmed or alone if you have a lot!) If you have a project or two that you are currently focused on, it becomes MUCH easier to decide what to do next and set yourself up for success.

cut fabric

But how to figure out what to focus on? First, decide if you have any of the following: 

  1. Deadlines: Is there a baby shower coming up, a wedding, or a birthday/holiday for which you will be gifting a quilt? If so, put those projects at the top of the list. Those dates aren’t going to move much (though babies tend to have a mind of their own sometimes!). 
  2. Projects close to completion: Is there a quilt you just need to bind? Or get quilted? Maybe you just need to add a label. Put those projects closer to the top of the priority list so you can knock them off and build momentum for your next finish!
  3. Fun and inspiring projects: What’s inspiring you right now? Maybe you’ve recently downloaded a new pattern and can’t wait to choose your fabrics. Or perhaps you’re signed up for a fun quilt along or block of the month that’s got you excited to sit down at your machine and get started. Regardless, make those projects you’re feeling motivated to work on priorities.

With those thoughts in mind, scan through your Simple WIP Inventory list to determine your first, second, and third project priorities. Place a 1, 2, and 3 to the left of the Project column for your top three projects (You don’t need to number all of them, just the first three. Any more than that starts to feel overwhelming!) And viola! You’ve prioritized your projects! 

Keep in mind that once those first three prioritized projects are done, you can re-visit your inventory, cross off the ones you’ve completed, and decide on your next three priorities based on the framework above.

#3: Organize your quilt projects

Taking those top three projects from above, it’s time to get those projects organized so you can easily work on them. There are about a million great ideas out there for how to store and organize your quilt projects. Regardless of your exact method, I recommend finding a way to keep everything you need in one place where it is organized, yet visible! 

My favorite option is using clear, stackable bins. For example, these 12” x 12” x 2” stackable bins from Target can keep patterns, cut fabric, and specific tools or rulers all in one place. Then when you’re ready to work on that project, you can pull out the bin and get straight to work without wondering where everything went! 

No matter the method you use to keep your projects organized, make sure that your top priority projects are always visible, always organized in one place (unless you’re actively working on them!), and have everything you need to complete the next step. 

#4: Make it work with your habits. 

How do you like to work on your quilt projects? Do you jump between your top three projects based on your mood and available time? Or do you prefer to really focus on one project and get it completed before moving on to the next? 

I’ve talked with quilters in both camps, and there are certainly benefits to each method. If you focus on one quilt project at a time, it can be easier to really maintain focus on the next step and not get distracted. However, sometimes the next step in your one quilt project can be an intimidating one! Maybe it’s a part of the quilting process you don’t enjoy (we all have those!), perhaps you’ve run out of fabric to cut, or the next step might be something you’ve never done before and need to research. In any of those cases, if you have only one project going on it can be easy to stop your forward momentum. 

quilt blocks

In a case like that, it may be easier to have two or three (not more!) projects you’re working on because as one project grinds to a halt, you can jump to the next one and continue your forward momentum. 

All that said, the number of projects you have in the works is completely up to you! What works for one quilter may not work for another. And know that you don’t have to commit to one method or another. If you’re currently a “one project only” quilter and hit a wall on a project, know that you can become a “more than one project” quilter for a time as needed, or vice versa. Our quilting identities can shift as needed…just as long as there’s forward motion!

#5: Break your quilt project into small, realistic steps

One of my most helpful tips to share with you today is this: Make your daily quilting goals as easy as possible to complete. Seriously. For example, instead of your daily goal being “finish quilt binding,” break that down into even smaller tasks such as: 

  • Cut binding strips
  • Piece binding strips
  • Press binding strips in half lengthwise
  • Attach binding to quilt
  • Finish binding by hand or machine

The reason for this? “Finish quilt binding” can feel too vague to give you a tangible place to start in those precious few moments you have to quilt. However, “cut binding strips” provides *very* clear direction. Since each of your smaller tasks consist of a simple step to complete, momentum begins to build and soon you’re crossing items off left and right. Before long you have a finished quilt in your hands! 

#6: Plan out your time for quilting

Life. Is. Complicated. Every quilter I’ve ever met has a fascinating, multi-faceted life…and I’m sure you’re the same! We are all quilters here, but we are also so many other things: parents, grandparents, siblings, friends, homeschool teachers, full-time/day job workers, quilterpreneurs, caregivers, volunteers, retirees…and more. Whatever keeps you busy in your life, it requires adept scheduling and organizing of time to get it all done (and sleep, take care of yourself, and work in that precious time for quilting, too).

To do all that, I highly recommend grabbing a planner to help you organize your time and make the most of the extra bits and pieces as they pop up. That way, you always know what to do with a spare 15 minutes whether it’s cutting some fabric, laying out your quilt blocks, or choosing the next priority on your Simple WIP Inventory list!

finished quilts

But…which planner to choose? The good news is that there is no one “best” planner out there because the best planner is the one that works for you! It might be a simple monthly wall calendar or a planner with a weekly spread so you can see all your to-do’s at a glance. For me, it’s a daily planner with a spread for each day that offers plenty of space to write. I like to have many things all in one place:  my schedule for the day, top priorities at my full-time day job, all the family fun and to-dos that come with running a household of five, space for my quilt-related tasks, and also – last but most certainly not least – a place to focus on self-care. 

The funny thing is, I was never able to find a planner that fit all those criteria…so I made one! The Life + Quilts Planner is now available in my shop over at Wild Plum Lane if you’re in need of a planner to organize all your quilting and life to-dos in one place, too! Regardless of the planner you choose, as you plan your time be sure you think about what is going to be most impactful and do that first. By “most impactful,” I mean what feels most important to you on that particular day. Does it simply mean crossing tasks off your to do list? Or is it something that will move the needle for your latest quilt project or in your quilt business? Maybe it’s something that will best set you up for success in the future but doesn’t necessarily make a huge impact today (like purchasing fabric for your next quilt or writing a new blog post). Always do the impactful things first while you have time and energy, because you just never know what a day will bring!

Let’s get started!

I know I’ve shared six tips already, but there’s actually a secret seventh one and it’s the most important: Just get started. Remember that there’s no one “right” way to do things as you plan and organize your quilting life, because the right way is the way that works for you!

Thank you so much to Elizabeth and the team at Quilters Candy for having me here on the blog today. I hope the Simple WIP Inventory will help you get organized, plan for 2024, and make a whole bunch of progress on your quilt projects this year!

I’d love to see your projects and pictures of your Simple WIP Inventory in action. Share them with me over on Instagram by tagging @wildplumlane.quilts and know that I’ll be cheering you on every step of the way!

Happy quilting to you!

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