What Is Your Next Quilt?

How do you choose your next project? Do you decide based on deadlines, such as special occasions or upcoming classes? Or do you pick an exciting new pattern, an old UFO, or a great piece of fabric to get you moving? What motivates your choice?

It’s a question about priorities. Digging a little deeper, it’s a question about why you quilt. Do you quilt to please yourself, or to meet obligations, or from a sense of guilt?

I’ve made guilt quilts. That isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but the main reward is in simply finishing. There usually isn’t the sense that “it’s all about the journey.” Sometimes I quilt to meet obligations, usually self-imposed. But these days I quilt mostly to please myself.

Sometimes I wonder what to choose as my next project. What will please me most? I’m not always very good at choosing between competing temptations. There are projects I’ve long wanted to do and continually think, “that’s the next one.” There are a couple of UFOs in one drawer, and several yards of scraps in another. Both drawers call to me. There are class samples to make, as well.

I usually choose either what is most urgent or what is easiest to lay my hands on. Neither is necessarily the one that will satisfy me most.


When my son was in first grade, his teacher’s philosophy on reading was the children should choose from a Goldilocks variety of books: some books should be a little too hard, some should be too easy, and some should be just right. The variety allows students the pleasures of speed, of comprehension, and of challenge. That philosophy can work well for quilting, too.

Usually I don’t pick quilt projects that are “easy,” but I have made several disappearing 9-patch quilts, and I will make them again. They are easy to execute and always turn out well. Most of my projects are in the “just right” and “rather challenging” groups. I enjoy extending my skills and figuring out ways to make my work fresh and interesting, while still looking like “me.”

Right now I have three projects, all somewhat defined, to consider. I might not choose but work on them concurrently. One is a UFO that I’ve taken apart to blocks. The blocks are not symmetrical, so their arrangement makes a big difference in how they look together. It should be in the “just right” category, aside from settling on design.

I’ve taken the borders off and separated the blocks. All the parts are pressed and ready to reuse, as soon as I have a good plan.

Another has been in my head for at least three years. I’ve put it off because, to me, it is hard. The third is a class sample for my October medallion class.

How do you choose your next project? Are they intended for growth or for fun, or some combination of the two? Are you most motivated by deadlines or sew-alongs or challenges issued by your guild? What gets you going?



31 thoughts on “What Is Your Next Quilt?

  1. piecefulwendy

    How I choose ebbs and flows. Lately I have had several quilts that I was asked to make for people, which was really fun. However, now that those quilts are done, I am enjoying some space to just work on whatever suits my fancy. With that, I have started one project that’s challenging me just a bit, but also exciting me at the same time. In the mix are little quilts that I can completely finish, so I do feel like I’m accomplishing something and it keeps me going forward.

  2. allisonreidnem

    I’ve had a couple of quilts evolve out of the leftover fabrics from projects nearing completion. I found myself waking up in the night thinking about possible patchwork layouts that would make best use of the fabrics rather than having to integrate them into my colour coded stash. I really enjoyed the spontaneity and speed of those unexpected projects. Deadlines definitely play a part in other projects – although I don’t always welcome the pressure I know I achieve more finishes because of the deadlines. It feels like a bit of a treat giving time to a quilt that requires me to stretch my skills and learn something new – ouch! writing that makes me realise I’m spending a lot of time making things to please other people and not being genuinely creative. As always, Melanie, your posts get me thinking!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      They make me think, too, Allison! I think I’m pretty comfortable with my agenda, but at the same time, I fear I’ll be sidetracked by any number of things. I do recommend that you make sure to please yourself, even if making for others. That’s the way, I think, to continue to make without getting burned out.

      1. allisonreidnem

        I’m sure you are right. It doesn’t happen often, but I do sometimes have to drag myself to the sewing machine to continue a project that’s not interesting me – not good.

  3. katechiconi

    Tricky one… I don’t often participate in sew-alongs and I’m not a guild member, so they don’t feature in my decisions, but I’m finding I sometimes have to bring some guilt to bear on my choices in order to finish a few WIPs which have lost their first lovely sparkle of interest. There’s not a whole lot of that, just an awareness of three projects I’d like to get done before I start the next new thing! I do regularly challenge myself to try something new (if not necessarily difficult), and so far, it’s paid off in making the new thing comfortable and easy to use, but I wouldn’t say it was a deciding factor in my choice of what to work on next.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Well, that is a good way to put it — try something new, if not necessarily difficult. A little reach is a good thing. Seems to me you are a finisher, even for time-extended projects. I’ll bet you don’t have many WIPs in your studio.

      1. katechiconi

        I think that’s probably true: one pieced top waiting to be sandwiched and quilted, three tops waiting for QAYG assembly, one EPP hexie quilt in progress and one Quilt Of Shame stuffed in the back of the cupboard because I simply can’t face the task of unpicking and fixing all the stretched bias edges.

  4. Emily

    I am a starter and this year I really have been trying to be disciplined and actually finish some wip’s and ufo’s. But I certainly have just had a big stretch of starts! Those scraps are more interesting than the original project!

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      The scraps certainly can be more interesting. I do love scrap quilts. Good work on the discipline of finishing. Some people set rules for themselves, like if they finish 2 they can start 1. Lots of different ways to go about it, but the place to begin is deciding what part of the process is most important to you, and why. For some people, giving (or selling) has a high priority, and to do that, they must finish! Thanks for taking a look.

  5. WriteAndQuilt

    That is pretty cool that your son’s teachers knew to present those different levels to inspire growth and instill confidence. I think subconsciously, I have done that for myself. I like to have a quilt that I can run back before work and in ten minutes get my sewing/fabric fix. But I like one that makes me feel like I have accomplished something “big.” I keep at least three projects going at once. That way I have one for whatever mood I am in. Right now, I have one I am big stitching with perle cotton, a QAYG diamond string quilt, a BOM that isn’t really monthly, but challenges me with all the tiny, multiple pieces and different techniques, and I just made my first “quilt in a day” using SuzyQuilts Maypole pattern.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      I like the idea of having something simple to work on in short bits of time. Sounds like you keep plenty busy with your methods. I like the Maypole design and yeah, that wouldn’t take long, once you work out some size parameters.

  6. myquiltprojects

    How do I choose? I have a Rolodex file in my brain of projects that are just waiting for the right fabric or right opportunity. When the opportunity presents itself, I set aside what I am working on, and poof….a new project and a UFO!

  7. snarkyquilter

    How do I choose a new project? I think my next project usually chooses me through some fabric that sparks an idea or an inspiration photo. Often, I set out with a list of a few possibilities and then proceed to make something totally different. Of course, group challenges are a factor as I try to participate in those, but if no ideas come then I pass on them. Right now I’m on a mission to quilt pieces before I begin anything else.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      That notion really appeals to me — my project chooses me. Yes, I think there is some of that. And like you, often what I make isn’t what I expected.

  8. knitnkwilt

    To your list of options, I’d say, ” All of the above.” At different times, of course. Although I always say I’ll not enter anything in a quilt show that isn’t yet finished, I have yet to live up to that. So those are the main deadline quilts. Other than that, I try not to have deadlines, but sometimes special projects or needs catch my attention. Then there are calls for entry. I read it and first look at the date. If it seems doable, I start to think about what to make. If I get an idea, I go with it; if not I let it go. I do like starting more than finishing as my pile of to-be-quilted attests.

    On the easy/hard question I also vary. The difficult usually is part of an idea for a call for entry that turns out to be a challenge. I try to design without thinking too much about how until I get ready to start. (I will admit that a certain amount of technique filters design decisions though.) Sometimes it is nice to sew just squares together into a checkeboard and meander quilt it. I don’t consciously vary level of difficulty,and I think I do a fairly balanced amount of each.

    Thanks for prompting some thinking.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Thanks for your comment. This is true: “a certain amount of technique filters design decisions…” And when I lack the skills/technique, that can make a project “hard,” and make it harder to prioritize. Squares and meandering? Yes, I think that’s like the disappearing 9-patches for me. I’ve found a couple of other easy designs that look much harder than they are, too. Must consider one soon… 🙂

  9. KerryCan

    I don’t make all that many quilts–I don’t always have a project going–so I usually just wait until something really moves me, whether it be a guild challenge or an idea that pops into my head.

  10. tierneycreates

    Random, it is all random. I am the golden retriever in the movie UP – “Squirrel!” (me seeing my next project). Unless it has to do with a specific request or a show I want to get into, otherwise it is random 🙂

  11. Shasta

    Randomness definitely rules the day at my house. Although I do have a Rolodex of quilts in my head that I want to make (I’ve always thought of it as a list, but a Rolodex describes it better,) I tend to start new quilts on a whim. I’m not sure how some quilts make it on the Rolodex, and others make me stop what I am doing to start a new one. It does cause some quilt guilt too sometimes, and I have to force myself to stop starting new quilts and finish older projects. I’ve found that working on smaller quilts helps a great deal since they have faster finishes.

    1. Melanie McNeil Post author

      Yes, the small-quilt-speed trick! I should try that some time. 🙂 Seems like I can’t stop making bigger quilts. I really love them from about 60″ (usually square) to about 85″, and lately they’ve been on the bigger end of that. I’m feeling pretty random these days, too, except I realized I REALLY DO need to get a class sample made. !!! Thanks for reading and commenting.


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