Tag Archives: Sharyn Craig

How to Finish UFOs

After speaking with friends about their UFO piles, I decided to republish this post from early 2016. Remember, YOU get to decide what “finished” means. It can simply mean, there, dammit, I’m FINISHED with this thing! 

For me, I have a small number of UFOs going right now. The six star points shown at the bottom of the post are no longer a UFO — except I haven’t bound the quilt yet! 


UFO: Unfinished Object; an art or crafting project that was begun but not finished, with some extended delay in making progress toward completion. The creator still intends to complete it, differentiating it from an abandoned project. UFO is a common term in quilting and knitting, but can apply to other creative endeavors such as writing, scrapbooking, painting, etc.

Over the last year or so, I’ve seen a lot more emphasis in quilting blogs on UFOs. Last year was a movement toward “A Lovely Year of Finishes,” complete with a button, goal setting, and linky parties. This year’s version is “One Monthly Goal,” or OMG. I love that these encourage quilters to complete their projects, just as Stashbusters has been doing for years.

But the question often comes up of what to do with projects you DON’T WANT TO FINISH. It just isn’t going to turn out the way you’d imagined, or it’s boring beyond tears, or you hate the process, or it was intended for someone not in your life anymore. In truth, you want to abandon it, but you don’t want to be a quitter, or don’t want to waste the effort or materials already used. What then? How to FINISH those unfinished objects?

The first thing to remember is that quilting is supposed to be rewarding and positive, not stressful and upsetting. If you look at a project and a black cloud appears above it, it might be time to make another decision. It doesn’t matter what resources already went into it. It’s too late to change that. What matters is what resources you put into it now, including time, energy, and material.

You have choices. One choice is to make a quilt of a different design than originally planned. What you do might depend on how much you have done. Do you have some blocks made? Can those blocks be assembled into a top, maybe of a smaller size or with a different setting? With sashings if there weren’t any in the original design, without if there were? On point, or with unpieced alternate blocks?

If you imagine your setting as a big 9-patch, you only need 4 or 5 pieced blocks, alternated with something else, to create a small quilt. It could be a lap quilt or a baby quilt or a doll quilt, or a table mat. A narrow table runner might need even fewer blocks.

Maybe you were part of a swap and found the blocks you received vary substantially in size. You can frame all the blocks with one fabric and then trim them to a consistent size. Then use the same framing fabric for sashing. No one will ever see the differences in size. The BEST book for dealing with swap blocks and other setting problems is Setting Solutions by Sharyn Craig. (I do own the book now.)

Maybe you signed up for an appliqué block of the month, but found you hate appliqué. If you have at least one, lovely big block, say 12″ or larger, you could make a medallion quilt with the block as the center.

Other options for a small number of blocks include a tote bag, mug rug, or placemats. My guild members make placemats for Meals on Wheels every couple of years, and nursing homes often use small quilts as door decorations for residents.

Or you could give all the blocks to someone else. Or use them as practice pieces for your free motion quilting.

If you have part of the top already assembled and don’t like where it’s going, try something new. My friend Mary at Zippy Quilts shows some great saves on improv projects she’s done.

What if you proceed and make a quilt top, what then? You can finish it and keep it, repurposing the quilt for something else. Make pillow covers or a travel bag, like Carole at From My Carolina Home. Or give the quilt to a friend or relative who would like it, donate it, make a cat bed out of it… Or don’t quilt the top. Donations often are appreciated at your real-world guild. My guild finishes a lot of unquilted tops for donations to local organizations. And once a year or so, we hold a fund-raiser auction. My friend Karen bought a beautiful quilt top at the January auction. She’s already quilted and bound it. Now she’ll give it back to the guild for a community donation quilt.

If you don’t have blocks or parts made, but simply have a pattern and fabric pulled together, take it all apart. Restash the fabric if you want. Or if the fabric gives you bad memories or no longer meets your quality standards, give it away, too.

Finishing UFOs does not require making a quilt. Finishing can mean throwing them away or passing them on. You can put them in the burn bin, you can wash the car with rags made from them. Finishing means declaring you are DONE with that project. Then it is NOT a UFO, it is a FO, Finished Object. DONE.

The most important thing to remember with UFOs is there is NO ONE who gets to decide how they are finished or disposed of, except you. If you don’t want to finish it, don’t. Life is too short to spend it on stuff (like this) you don’t want to do. If you don’t make the quilt, no one will die and no one will go to jail. NO bad thing will happen.

Here is my one UFO. Yes, one. This one got stuck because I didn’t know how to set and border the 6-pointed star. Now as I look at it, I don’t love it, or the idea, as much as I did when I started it. I’m not ready to abandon it, but I probably won’t hurry to finish it, either.

20160208_094251_resized

Tell me about your UFOs. What stops you from finishing? And how do you get them going again?

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Lessons: Round Robin Books Review

The Quilting Party, Artist Unknown, c. 1840-1850.

I’ve recently provided reviews on almost all the medallion books there are, as well as five books on quilt borders. Before I finish with reviews, I want to include four books I own on collaborative quilting. Two specifically consider round robins, while two are a little different.

Round Robin Quilts by Pat Magaret and Donna Slusser, 1994
It’s surprising how much great information is packed in this older book. It covers round robins as a friendship or small group project. Besides the familiar medallion format, the book suggests a handful of variations. Considerable space is spent discussing options for group rules, including having no rules at all. Photos are abundant of real projects, and while not all the individual projects are inspiring, they give a sense of the possibilities. Besides group dynamics and projects, the authors also cover both design and construction in depth. In fact, the design discussion here includes elements (line, shape, color, value, texture, and space) as well as principles (unity, emphasis, balance, scale, and rhythm.) It is clear, easy to read, and is written with a friendly tone, befitting the projects. I honestly don’t remember where I got this book, but I’m glad to have it. It is one of the best two medallion books I own, along with Sally Collins’ Borders, Bindings & Edges, reviewed here.

Round Robin Renaissance by M’liss Rae Hawley, 2006
As the title says, the focus here is on round robin (group) projects more generally, including medallion quilts, row quilts, samplers, and others. The section on medallions is small and provides two patterns with very specific sizing for elements. The other types of projects seem to be similarly rigid. More disconcerting, though, is the section on behavior by participants. Hawley recommends substantial paperwork be passed with projects, fully-specified fabrics, same-brand rulers to ensure consistency of sizing from all participants… She has a list of rules for how to be a “perfect team member,” and even recommends wording for when you need to tell another member that their work isn’t up to your standards. Honestly, it is just odd. If any group suggested I participate in such a constricted and obsessive way, I would certainly decline. If you want that much control over your quilt, make it yourself! (I just donated this book Monday at my guild meeting.)

Freddy & Gwen Collaborate Again by Gwen Marston and Freddy Moran, 2009
Following up on their prior book Collaborative Quilting, Marston and Moran play with bright colors, bold designs, and liberated piecing. The range of formats includes block, strip, and medallion quilts. They show how to create the various parts used in multiple quilts, and then include a gallery referencing which parts were used.

The point of the book isn’t actually to advocate for working in pairs or groups. It doesn’t discuss the logistics of collaboration, or the benefits or pitfalls. However, the influence of both designers is visible in the joyful results. In my opinion, that speaks for itself. This book is just fun to look at, which is why I bought it and why I still own it.

Setting Solutions by Sharyn Craig, 2001
Of all the books in my personal library, this is one I would reach for if I could only keep ten books. It isn’t about medallions, it isn’t about round robins. It’s about solving problems. Problems that are common for group quilts include blocks that are sized differently, unusual numbers of blocks, and oddly colored blocks. Craig addresses all these issues with creativity and practicality.

For a more complete review, see my post on the best book I don’t own. (I own it now!)

Do you have a favorite book (or other resource) on collaborative quilting? Certainly these just touch on the subject. Block swaps, bees, friendship and album quilts, remembrance quilts, political quilts… There are many ways to work together in quilting. Do you have stories to tell about working with others on quilts? I could tell you stories… 

How to Finish UFOs

UFO: Unfinished Object; an art or crafting project that was begun but not finished, with some extended delay in making progress toward completion. The creator still intends to complete it, differentiating it from an abandoned project. UFO is a common term in quilting and knitting, but can apply to other creative endeavors such as writing, scrapbooking, painting, etc.

Over the last year or so, I’ve seen a lot more emphasis in quilting blogs on UFOs. Last year was a movement toward “A Lovely Year of Finishes,” complete with a button, goal setting, and linky parties. This year’s version is “One Monthly Goal,” or OMG. I love that these encourage quilters to complete their projects, just as Stashbusters has been doing for years.

But the question often comes up of what to do with projects you DON’T WANT TO FINISH. It just isn’t going to turn out the way you’d imagined, or it’s boring beyond tears, or you hate the process, or it was intended for someone not in your life anymore. In truth, you want to abandon it, but you don’t want to be a quitter, or don’t want to waste the effort or materials already used. What then? How to FINISH those unfinished objects?

The first thing to remember is that quilting is supposed to be rewarding and positive, not stressful and upsetting. If you look at a project and a black cloud appears above it, it might be time to make another decision. It doesn’t matter what resources already went into it. It’s too late to change that. What matters is what resources you put into it now, including time, energy, and material.

You have choices. One choice is to make a quilt of a different design than originally planned. What you do might depend on how much you have done. Do you have some blocks made? Can those blocks be assembled into a top, maybe of a smaller size or with a different setting? With sashings if there weren’t any in the original design, without if there were? On point, or with unpieced alternate blocks?

If you imagine your setting as a big 9-patch, you only need 4 or 5 pieced blocks, alternated with something else, to create a small quilt. It could be a lap quilt or a baby quilt or a doll quilt, or a table mat. A narrow table runner might need even fewer blocks.

Maybe you were part of a swap and found the blocks you received vary substantially in size. You can frame all the blocks with one fabric and then trim them to a consistent size. Then use the same framing fabric for sashing. No one will ever see the differences in size. The BEST book for dealing with swap blocks and other setting problems is Setting Solutions by Sharyn Craig. (I do own the book now.)

Maybe you signed up for an appliqué block of the month, but found you hate appliqué. If you have at least one, lovely big block, say 12″ or larger, you could make a medallion quilt with the block as the center.

Other options for a small number of blocks include a tote bag, mug rug, or placemats. My guild members make placemats for Meals on Wheels every couple of years, and nursing homes often use small quilts as door decorations for residents.

Or you could give all the blocks to someone else. Or use them as practice pieces for your free motion quilting.

If you have part of the top already assembled and don’t like where it’s going, try something new. My friend Mary at Zippy Quilts shows some great saves on improv projects she’s done.

What if you proceed and make a quilt top, what then? You can finish it and keep it, repurposing the quilt for something else. Make pillow covers or a travel bag, like Carole at From My Carolina Home. Or give the quilt to a friend or relative who would like it, donate it, make a cat bed out of it… Or don’t quilt the top. Donations often are appreciated at your real-world guild. My guild finishes a lot of unquilted tops for donations to local organizations. And once a year or so, we hold a fund-raiser auction. My friend Karen bought a beautiful quilt top at the January auction. She’s already quilted and bound it. Now she’ll give it back to the guild for a community donation quilt.

If you don’t have blocks or parts made, but simply have a pattern and fabric pulled together, take it all apart. Restash the fabric if you want. Or if the fabric gives you bad memories or no longer meets your quality standards, give it away, too.

Finishing UFOs does not require making a quilt. Finishing can mean throwing them away or passing them on. You can put them in the burn bin, you can wash the car with rags made from them. Finishing means declaring you are DONE with that project. Then it is NOT a UFO, it is a FO, Finished Object. DONE.

The most important thing to remember with UFOs is there is NO ONE who gets to decide how they are finished or disposed of, except you. If you don’t want to finish it, don’t. Life is too short to spend it on stuff (like this) you don’t want to do. If you don’t make the quilt, no one will die and no one will go to jail. NO bad thing will happen.

Here is my one UFO. Yes, one. This one got stuck because I didn’t know how to set and border the 6-pointed star. Now as I look at it, I don’t love it, or the idea, as much as I did when I started it. I’m not ready to abandon it, but I probably won’t hurry to finish it, either.

20160208_094251_resized

Tell me about your UFOs. What stops you from finishing? 

 

The Best Book I Don’t Own (Yet)

Okay, maybe it’s not the best book (because I haven’t seen every book to know!), but one of my all-time favorites.

How can I fit these donated blocks, ranging in size from 11.75″ clear up to 13″, into the same quilt top? That was a dilemma I faced early this year. Many of us have worked on projects for charities with blocks donated by many different sewers. Others participate in block exchanges or block of the month projects. Or maybe we have a stack of orphan blocks made as samples or for an intended top that never was constructed. In all these cases the variations between blocks for size and color can stymie us.

Setting Solutions by Sharyn Craig offers solutions to these and many other problems. She gives hope to the quilter with piles of blocks and no ideas for how to get them into quilts.

There are no patterns in this book. Instead, she talks the reader through dealing with those odd sizes with framing and alternate blocks. Besides that, though, she shows how to change color, proportion, and value, as well. For example, if you have a set of blocks that have greens as their main color, but you don’t want a green quilt, you can fool the eye by using different colors in the settings and borders. Your green blocks can magically turn into a blue quilt!

Even though the book is primarily about block format quilts, the concepts work just as well with other formats. As I worked on my medallion quilt, there were a couple of points where the color didn’t suit me. When I had only the center block done and it was in pinks and greens, I knew I didn’t want a pink and green quilt. Using ideas learned from this book (and reinforced by later experience), I was able to spread the color palette away from those. After I applied the turquoise border, my small group members asked if the top was done. I said no, because the turquoise border turns it into a turquoise quilt, and I don’t want a turquoise quilt. And I was able to change it.

The framing techniques also work well with medallion quilts, as we often need to adjust sizing to deal with inaccuracy of sewing, or just to make the desired border work.

Not only are the ideas great, but she writes clearly, also. Her style is conversational and personal, and she comes across as just the one you want helping you.

And why don’t I own the book yet? I’ve checked it out of my public library numerous times over the last few years.

But finally I’ve decided to buy it for myself. I placed an order this morning to buy a used library copy. My hope is that I’ll get a 2001 printing, rather than the newer Print-on-Demand version.

Whether you get a 2001 printing or a newer one, you won’t be sorry. If you work with “odd” blocks of any type, this book provides ideas for dealing with all kinds of problems.

And how did my charity quilt turn out? Using what Craig calls “negative” coping strips, I framed the blocks with the same color as that used in the sashing. The size differences disappeared and the colors unified to create a beautiful top. When the quilt was auctioned, it raised more than $10,000.

Thanks, Sharyn Craig, for writing one of the best quilting books ever!

[Note: I sent Sharyn Craig an email with the link, and she wrote back! How wonderful!]

More Book Reviews

I’ve mentioned before that I’m on my local guild’s library committee. The reality is I’m the committee’s chairman. And with that I have the privilege of choosing new books to add to our library. I buy new books several times a year, with no particular schedule. I think we have an official budget of $250, but we’ve also sold many books over the last three years, raising at least that much each time. And as mentioned before, I almost always buy books on discount, both for myself and for the guild. (For the guild, however, I only buy new.) Truthfully, I don’t worry much about the budget…

Our guild year begins in September. Last guild year I added a number of books. Here are reviews of a few of them.

Reviews of Guild Library Books
Quilters Playtime by Dianne S. Hire
As the name implies, this book wants to make quilting more fun with a set of games. The games range from tiddly winks, pick-up sticks, tic tac toe, and musical chairs, as well as several others. A lot of the techniques include sewing blocks and slicing, and then resewing parts from a number of blocks together. Others include fusing and machine applique.

The resulting quilts are interesting, fun, and refreshing, and they give me an “I wanna try that!” feeling. Frankly, a lot of books with offbeat techniques don’t make me feel that way. In fact, this one looked like so much fun, I bought a copy for myself.

Liberated Quiltmaking II by Gwen Marston
Marston originated the term “liberated quilting” and uses it to describe her freeform, improvisational process. This 2010 publication by the favorite author/quilter takes readers through nine processes to create fresh quilts without patterns. From liberated log cabins and wonky stars, recut blocks and sashing, and truly wild geese, she shows how to make parts that can be combined in various ways. The final two processes, Liberated Medallions and Liberated Samplers, show how the parts can be combined in multitudes of ways for a new look.

Throughout the book, photos of finished quilts, diagrams of stitching and cutting instructions, and tips provide the reader with everything they need to begin liberating themselves from traditional patterns.

Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts by Rayna Gillman
My sister bought this book first, and excitedly showed me through it and some piecing she had started inspired by the book. I love the quote on the book’s back cover: “No such thing as a mistake!” So many of us, as we learn to quilt, focus more on our mistakes than on our victories. This is a sure way to kill pleasure and creativity.

This book’s philosophy carries the no-mistakes theme all through. The author’s cheerful attitude takes the reader from sewing strips cut without rulers, joining strip sets, slicing them across and apart, framing, and rejoining. The resulting quilts are thoroughly original and, to me, reminiscent of architectural studies. A bonus is the chapter on using orphan or ugly blocks. Once they are sliced up and re-pieced with slashes and strips, they aren’t recognizable anymore, but are reborn.

Quilts Made Modern by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr
Unlike the three books above, this book uses purely traditional processes. However, it does so within the styling of “modern” or “contemporary” quilts. Sections on design and construction sandwich the section of patterns, making this a more traditional book just by its arrangement. The patterns in between also show multiple colorways and information to make each quilt in varying sizes.

The patterns themselves allow quilters of differing skill levels to try simple Chinese coins, transparency, curved piecing, and different kinds of applique. Few of the quilts use a typical block style, and though the patterns are modern in this regard, no one would mistake the quilts for another art or textile genre.

Men and the Art of Quiltmaking by Joe Cunningham
This exciting book provides a gallery and artist summaries of about thirty male quilters, as well as several patterns. The men’s comments on their introduction to quilting, their creative processes, and why they quilt are not very different than you would hear from most women. But culturally we often are surprised by men who quilt, and some of them discuss others’ reactions, as well.

The photos of the quilts reveal a variety of styles. Some show traditional block-pieced quilts, others focus on applique, while others veer into the art quilt world. The common thread, in my opinion, is the boldness of color and form. While the author may have chosen these quilters specifically for this quality, it stands out to me in a way a collection of women’s quilts might not.

Reviews of Books from My Personal Library
A few days ago I blogged about buying books. One of the things I mentioned was the idea of creating a written inventory of my personal library.

I used an Excel spreadsheet to record the title, author, and publication date for each. I also noted the category of the book. Categories include History, Patterns, Machine Quilting, etc. To preserve the list, I uploaded it using Google Docs.

On the list are more than 80 books acquired over the last few years, and I’ve probably donated another 20 or 25, books I decided I no longer need.

As I entered them in my spreadsheet, I wondered which ones I’d keep now, if I could only have a few. Four of them stood out for different reasons.

The Ultimate Quilting Book by Maggi McCormick Gordon is one of the first books I owned. At 448 pages, it is survey of classic quilts, including patchwork and applique. Antique and contemporary quilts are shown in high-quality photos with discussion of pattern, layout, and the histories of them. The last half of the book focuses on techniques.

Scrap Quilt Sensation by Katharine Guerrier is another favorite. The author takes color a completely different direction from the antiques of the prior book. Rich blues, purples, and greens dominate, with warm colors as accents. Block styles have a more fluid nature than in traditional quilts, but she uses all the traditional techniques. This book helped me look at color and format in whole new ways.

I checked Scrap Quilts: The Art of Making Do out of the public library dozens of times before I finally had for a copy of my own. Roberta Horton shows fabric and color combinations to honor, not imitate, antique quilts. As a fun addition, the latter part of the book also discusses story quilts and how to compose them. I find this book fascinating and refer to it over and over for inspiration.

Finally, Harriet Hargrave and Sharyn Craig‘s The Art of Classic Quiltmaking is a classic unto itself. It serves as a how-to resource for a variety of technical skills, but it also discusses color and composition, as well as other topics necessary to the skilled quilter.

Do you have favorite books or bookstores for your quilting adventures? Are there “best” books for learning techniques or processes, for learning color theory or design? Share with us!