Putting It Off

Why do you put off working on a quilt project? Here are a few possibilities:

* I don’t have the supplies I need
* Parts of the project got scattered, and I don’t know where they are
* I don’t know how to do the next step
* I don’t like what I’ve done so far
* It’s boring or tedious or just plain hard
* Non-quilting parts of my life are taking my time and energy
* I’m mad (or something) at the person it is for
* I got distracted by a different quilt project (ooo! shiny!)
* The deadline is coming up, so I’m waiting to do my best work under pressure

If you have a lot of UFOs, any or all of these reasons might apply.

I never have many UFOs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t put stuff off. I’m doing it right now, in fact! The reason? I don’t have the supplies I need (good textile markers,) and I don’t know how to do it. And I have lots of other things I could choose to do instead. The fact that there is a deadline looming doesn’t make me delay; it just adds stress to it!

The other day I mentioned my guild’s annual challenge, to be presented in less than two weeks. This year the challenge is to create a quilt inspired by Iowa. There is no size or technique limit. However it must be quilted through three layers, bound, and labeled.

I have a start on my project, and I have ideas for how to proceed. The photo below shows a map of Iowa lying on top of pieced fabric. I used blue tape to draw a “dead body” outline around it, so I know the basic outline within which I’ll work. My plan includes some text, as well as at least one wind turbine. But the other elements are harder to envision. And in truth, I don’t know how to execute my ideas!


What does that mean? I can keep putting it off and miss this opportunity to try new things. Or I can get busy, learn how to write text on fabric, play with sizes for wind turbines, and have some fun! What’s the worst that would happen?

Why do you put off projects? What great (or lame) ideas do you have for my Iowa quilt? Do you have advice or encouragement for me? Let me know in comments.

38 thoughts on “Putting It Off

  1. tierneycreates

    Well in the words from the dog in the movie “Up”, my main reason would be: “Squirrel!”. I am easily distracted in general and if there is another shiny thing to focus on…. I love the idea of an Iowa quilt and I think the idea of using colors that evoke the feeling of Iowa and then loosely cutting it into the shape of the state would be cool. You could also then float it on top of a square of fabric to make it easier to hang, etc. Looking forward to seeing it (now you HAVE to work on it as you put it out there in the blog-o-sphere – ha!) πŸ™‚

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, I think the project now has life. πŸ™‚ It really did help to get the encouragement from the gang here. I’ve decided to go ahead and cut it Iowa-shaped. Jim and I talked about how to stiffen it, esp on the right side where it juts out. I think I’ll try using the crappiest thinnest clothing hangers to bend into shape under the back of the binding. ??? Well, the whole dang thing is an experiment, so why not? πŸ™‚

  2. Sue

    Re lettering, many ways…stamps…stencils…hand lettering, printer sheets. You could fuse fabric to one side of some Wonder Under (leave release paper on reverse) and it would stabilize it well, similar to freezer paper. Then cut out and fuse. Have you ever used Transfer Artist Paper? You can put it through a printer or write/paint/etc on it, and then it iron transfers to the cloth. It makes a very nice, dense, crisp image. It does leave a bit of a ‘hand’ but it is washable and I have heard that some of the stiffness washes out, though I haven’t tried it. It’s a little pricy, but fun to play with. Beware, you have to reverse the image.

    Re too many irons in the fire, I’ve just had to accept that I am a fickle person, an intermittent enthusiast who gets all jazzed up about something, gets halfway into it and then gets interested in something else. Each idea I have begets more ideas. I’ve always been this way and am unlikely to change at this point. I have lots of UFOs. Sometimes, I just realize halfway in that I don’t like the project any more.

    Re Iowa, my only knowledge and connection with it is The Music Man, which I more or less memorized as a girl…the whole play, sets, costumes (!) dialogue, music. I could probably direct it! Have never visited. Whether and how you finish this particular quilt I think eventually you “oughta give Iowa a try”! (sorry, couldn’t resist). By coincidence, I’ve had a fantasy project involving the general theme of California, my town in California, and maps in general. Another great idea as yet unrealized. Good luck!

  3. TextileRanger

    I saw a magazine article that showed putting letter stickers on the fabric, and using them as a mask for spraying or brushing textile paint. I tried it on a little flag and it worked pretty well, although I did get a little paint spreading under a few of the stickers. But then that’s another supply you would have to go get!

  4. snarkyquilter

    You left out one reason to put a project off – I need to ask for input from others (joke.) As to lettering, you could print out the words/phrases you want at the size you want on paper, and then put your fabric over the paper and trace the letters with marker.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That’s no joke, Joanna! You caught me on that one. πŸ™‚ Yes, I do that kind of lettering for labels and it makes a terrific difference in how legible they are.

  5. KerryCan

    I can see that this would be a fun and terrifying project! And I know you like your work to be so very good–it would be even more terrifying to try something new (like the fabric writing) and have it disappoint you. Does your guild have regular show and tell? Could you finish this on your own timeline and show it when it’s done, instead of with the rest of the challenge projects? Our challenge ended 3 months ago but we’re still seeing awesome red and white quilts at every show and tell . . .

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      We do have show and tell, and it’s pretty common for our “challenge” projects to be completed over several months (or years!) later. So I need to get started and see what happens, yes? πŸ™‚

  6. Paula Hedges

    Melanie, I grew up in Iowa and when I think of those days, first and foremost are the corn fields, then summer evenings sitting on the front porch until the mosquitos thought to join us! I think somehow incorporating corn stalks would be great. As for the writing part, I think printing on fabric sheets would give you the space to put all the words you would like to add, in a font that would go with the feeling of the quilt. Black ink would work.

    Remember to relax and enjoy the process! The worse that could happen is you don’t make the guild deadline. The best – you have used your special quilting talent to capture your son’s perspective of Iowa. That is priceless!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, thanks much. The deadline is not as important as doing something I’m pleased with, so I appreciate that advice. I do think corn is a good idea, even to evoke it somehow. If I use paint, I can also soften the strong contrast between the pale blues, relatively darker greens, and even darker browns. Thanks again.

  7. Amanda G

    My excuse is usually, I’m too tired after work and there is always tomorrow. Although, whenever I do finally go upstairs and work on something I get lost in it and wonder why in the world I didn’t start sooner. I have never felt any of the other things. I guess I am lucky.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      No kidding, sometimes the hardest part is just to start! And yes, you’re lucky, as I am, too. Most of those reasons aren’t usually part of my life. Thanks.

  8. jmn111

    Have you considered fabric sheets you can use in your inkjet printer? They work very well – I’ve printer parts of photographs I’ve incorporated into textile wall art.

  9. katechiconi

    I walk away from things because I know it’s going to be demanding work, whether physically or because it’s highly detailed and requires great concentration. It’s the tipping point for me, at which quilting becomes work instead of play. Once I get myself back on track, I always, always wonder why I delayed. May I make one recommendation for your ‘writing’ part? The fabric that you’re going to write on needs to be starched very stiffly to make the surface papery, otherwise the fabric shifts too much and you get bloopers. How about a map of the state, complete with tiny cities, fields, landmarks, roads, and of course, wind turbines? I have a clear mental image, but find it hard to communicate what I mean. Something like an antique treasure map…

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for the tip on writing. Using a piece of freezer paper will stabilize it, too. (Do you have that there?) I would think starch would change the ability of the fabric surface to accept the marking. I like your ideas for a treasure map. I think the words are really the feature, so I don’t want to take too much away from them. I will be using my son’s own words as he described flying across Iowa early this year, and how he felt about that. πŸ™‚

      1. katechiconi

        We do have freezer paper, but it’s expensive and sold in small packs. I used starch on the back of the fabric and it seemed to work OK. I liked the idea of the map because aerial views have always looked like patchwork to me, and there’s scope for a bit of freehand stitch ‘scribbling’ and appliquΓ©.

  10. jeanswenson

    For encouragement: what does Iowa mean to me? Family, rolling hills filled with row after row of beautiful corn stalks gently swaying in the breeze, great old barns, Fourth of July (probably because as a kid, we would sometimes be in Iowa visiting family, and going to Fourth of July picnics). As a kid, my Mom would lament that Iowa was too flat: perhaps unfair when compared to California, where I grew up and live. But as an adult, I have come to see the beauty of the gentle rolling hills of Iowa and view it as my home away from home. I am not sure if this provides any ideas for you, but perhaps you need to take a step out of the proverbial trees and look at Iowa with a renewed sense of “home”.
    For ideas: in my view, there are no rights or wrongs in the process of designing quilts. I find that when I open my heart and mind to the idea of making a quilt for this that or the other, that the design seems to fall into place behind.
    Good luck! BTW – I love your background piecing with the brown earth, the green land and the blue sky. Also, I noticed when you were testing the tension of your repaired machine a week or two ago, that it looked like you had doodled your name in the stitching? Could you try stitching the words you want to put on Iowa, or does it need to be done in fabric markers?

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I’ve written about Iowa before and re-read one of those pieces today. Also my inspiration actually is words from my son about how he sees Iowa, “the Iowa in my mind,” and I’ll use a bit of that. As to quilting the words, the piece will not be very large at about 30″ across. I’m not sure I’d have room for them. Something to think about… Thanks again.

    2. tierneycreates

      What a wonderful statement jeanswenson: ” I find that when I open my heart and mind to the idea of making a quilt for this that or the other, that the design seems to fall into place behind.” – that made me smile (and now I want to go visit Iowa after that description!)

  11. Alice Samuel's Quilt co.

    Well you are right and I can definitely pick where I belong on that list. As a matter of fact, there’s only about 3/4 that doesn’t apply to me oh you didn’t include laziness on the list πŸ™†I’m sure your Iowa quilt will be fabulous.

  12. jmn111

    I learned, when I was an administrator, that it’s OK to walk away from some tasks. And not feel guilty about saying “No”. Seems to me that’s one your inner self is saying “No” to. Listen. Why would you take on the stress, for heaven’s sake?

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I’m actually really good at saying “no,” and there are a lot of guild challenges I’ve passed up. But I do *want* to do this. I just don’t know how to make my vision become reality.

      1. jmn111

        Sounds like you’re in a “percolating” stage and the deadline is interfering with that subconscious process. Forget the deadline and let the percolating carry on at its own pace, I say


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