Sometimes things don’t work out. That happens in life and love, but also in quilt design. All quilters know the problem of having a list of unfinished quilts longer than all the thread they own combined. We quilters call those projects UFO’s, unfinished objects. Maybe we call them UFO because they are that mysterious presence in our homes nobody else in our family takes seriously. There is the question quilter families always asks scornfully ‘whether we actually finish any quilts’, and that one has not been original anymore since 1452. However, in this post, I want to discuss the question when, and how, we are willing to give up on projects. And why giving up is not a bad thing. I will do that with the help of one of my own discarded quilt projects: the danger quilt.
The plan: a danger quilt
The picture shows the initial design ideas for this quilt. I named it ‘the danger quilt’ because it reminds me of those hexagon warning signs. The spider web drawing was the plans I had for the quilting of the quilt.
Work on this quilt started promising. I made some stencils from cardboard and started cutting fabrics. The pile of pieces grew and grew. I decided to cut the fabric without first drawing the pattern pieces on the fabric like I usually do. It would be good practice and a time-saver if managed well. However, cutting fabric turned out harder than I expected.
What went wrong with this quilt?
Once I had the pile of the hexagons, I started putting the quilt together. I tried and tried to sew the Y-seams, even by hand, but the quilt somehow did not get together. I think my hexagons were not cut precise enough. In the pictures, you can see I tried assembling the hexagons both in groups and in long rows. Both did not work though, and in the end, the whole process frustrated me so much that this project ended up on top of my bookcase for almost a year.
My solution: give up on that quilt
How to know to abandon a project, or to leave it in a cupboard for a few more months? Because there are also those projects that get finished. With this one, it took me more than half a year to know. When I was living abroad I had no access to most of my ongoing quilt projects. So, when I returned I looked at each with fresh eyes. Some of the projects get finished, like this mini-quilt I’m very proud of:
The danger quilt won’t be finished though. I felt such an aversion towards working on this quilt, that I decided to choose happiness and give up on this quilt. The quilt has served its purpose in teaching me valuable quilting lessons. Now I want to move on and use the new knowledge and ideas for a new quilt. It is time to give myself the space for something new without worrying about projects I don’t want to put energy in. So what to do with the pile of hexagons?
Repurpose! the start of a secret quilt project
Yes, it is a shame I cannot tell you about my plans. But I promise you, I will tell when this mystery quilt is finished and delivered. The point is that, for me, it works to think of a new use for fabrics to justify giving up on an old idea -I have a pillow somewhere with an unnamed project in it as stuffing because I could not face it anymore… It makes me sad and it is wasteful to throw fabric away, so I always try to find a new use for them. Especially for the pieces that are already cut.
This perpetually inventing and re-inventing of ideas seems to work for me, together with the recycling of clothes. I need to see the practical outcome of an idea before I can see how good or bad it actually was. I see the fruits of a bad idea not as a failure, but as the first stage of a future project. In this way, I keep learning and when you learn, nothing is a waste of time. To think in failures only brings you down.
Don’t keep doing something if it makes you feel bad, especially if it’s for a hobby. If you don’t want to finish a quilt, and there is nobody waiting for it, just don’t. Take the project as a learning opportunity and rip the pieces apart for pillow stuffing or whatever you want to do. Give yourself the freedom and space for a new project. This is what I’ve learned from my danger quilt attempt:
- Precision is key when cutting fabric pieces without marking them first
- Don’t be tough on yourself when you don’t want to finish a quilt
- There will always be more ideas to work on when a previous one doesn’t work out.
Some questions for you:
- Do you discard projects, and if so when?
- What is your longest living UFO? Do you think you will finish it?
- Do you easily change plans and re-invent creative projects and material use?
Would you like to know more?
- How to make a scrap quilt with many pieces
- Using old shirts to make a new quilt
- Picknick blanket scrap quilt
See my DeviantArt or Instagram (username: bella.g.bear.art) for more artwork and WIPs. You can also follow my blog by clicking on the button on the left or by filling in your email address. There will be a monthly update at the end of every month and a new blog post every Sunday or Monday.