3 Keys for Finishing Your Quilting WIPs (Works in Progress)

If you follow me on Instagram (@makervalley), you know that I quilt a LOT and that, for the most part, I finish my WIPs (my Work-In-Progress quilting projects). In fact, for the past eight years, I’ve averaged 27 finished quilts per year. Looking back, that amazes me—because I am NOT naturally an organized, driven, “finisher” type of person.

I LOVE the thrill of starting a new project, but many projects can become… boring to me after that initial rush. The fun wears off. And it becomes really tough to work up the focus/interest/drive to finish them. They start to feel like a chore—almost like more housework.

And then, in the middle of that slog, more often than not, a shiny new project idea will pop into my head! Magically alluring, exciting, not at all tedious. FUN. …and I drop the WIP to start yet another project. I’ve struggled with this in the past—jumping from one project to another and slowly building up a backlog of unfinished WIPs that starts to feel insurmountable. Left unchecked, it can get to the point where quilting ALMOST stops being fun. Does any of this sound familiar?

Today, I’m going to share the 3 keys I have discovered and used to break this cycle, motivate myself into finishing my WIPs before moving on to new projects, and get the FUN of quilting back in my life.

To help me overcome the vicious WIP cycle, a few years ago, my graphic designer husband, Dave and I created a quilting organizer. You can download this PDF for free in my shop: Quilting Organizer PDF Pack

Ok, now that you’ve got the PDF and can refer to it as you read along, without further ado, here are 3 motivational keys I’ve used to rip through my WIPs:

Key 1: Declutter your brain! (get those WIPs right out of your head)

I found that the biggest problem with accumulating all those unfinished WIPs was the mental toll they took on me. It was like my brain had too many browser tabs open and my mind (my creativity) started to run S-L-O-W-L-Y. Even when I started a fun new project, the ghosts of all those unfinished WIPs quietly haunted me—stultified me. This might sound overly dramatic, but they seriously sapped my joy and creativity! I realized that just like a computer, I needed a reboot. I needed to get all of those WIPs out of my head and into a more manageable spot where I could see and deal with all of them at once.

I created the “WIPs to Finish (The Terminator)” sheet to give me that reboot. As you can see, it gives you one place to write down all of your quilting projects (and finally get rid of the mental clutter they are creating in you). Take a few minutes and write down all of your WIPs now. Declutter that brain!

One final note on this key: over the past couple of years, I’ve found that the best part about decluttering my brain of my WIPs, is that it recharges my creativity and drive! Once my brain was clear, I was able to focus on new ideas and projects.

Key 2: Break WIPs up into bite-sized chunks (then generate momentum through easy wins)

Once you’ve written down all your WIPs on the “WIPs to Finish (The Terminator)” sheet, use the columns to mark your current state of progress for each one. Each WIP will be in a different spot—are you working on your blocks, your borders, your binding? Whatever step you are on, mark it down. I found that these progress columns helped me to see each WIP—not as one giant, insurmountable project—but as a finite set of bite-sized (totally finish-able) tasks.

Once that’s done, look for the WIP that is closest to being done. Which one would be the easiest project to complete? I love to focus on those low-hanging fruit WIPs and knock them out because they generate energy in me—I get SO motivated when I see that I can complete these projects!

Key 3: Track progress and reward yourself

Finally, with your WIPs written down, their current progress marked, and a few easy wins checked off, start using the “WIPs to Finish (The Terminator)” sheet to track your overall WIP progress. There’s something magical about checking things off of a list! Seeing progress over time helps to keep me motivated and on track. I also like to use rewards like the 2-for-1 Rule: tell yourself you can’t start your next fun project until you check two WIPs off the list.

That’s it! Thank you all so much for your time! I hope these keys help you to rip through your WIPs!

Note: A version of this post appeared originally on Amy Smart's Diary of a Quilter blog here: Tips for Finishing Your Quilting WIPs