Monday, January 6, 2014

Time Management for Quilters, Part 1

I am often asked how I get so much quilting done.  In reality, I don't feel like I get enough done but I have some tips that help me use the time I do have to maximize my quilting.  Here's my take on time management:  we all have ALL the time there is, the same 24 hours, so figure out what you want to do with your time and then figure out how to get it done.  We are all busy.  If we had to wait until we could find 3 or 5 or 8 uninterrupted hours to begin, we would never get anything started or done.

My first tips for quilters:

1.  Have a design wall--this helps me see what I'm working on and keeps me motivated to keep at my projects.  Yes, I do have way too many things going at once but don't we all? 
Some of these are active projects, like the Robbing Peter to Pay Paul hand appliqued blocks in the middle.  The upper half is sewn, the lower half is being put up as the blocks are done so I can be sure about color placement.  On the far right are my Antique Star blocks--I'm eager to get back to them--I'll be teaching this at a guild Quilt-In this summer.  I first wrote about them here
On the far upper left is a block I started in a workshop with Marjan Kluepfel, about 10 years ago.   The dragonfly wings are Angelina so it's safer to lay flat--and I will finish this one someday.  Out of sight is out of mind so I like having things visible on the design wall.  There are MANY projects behind the closet doors that haven't seen the light of day for years. 

2.  Have an ongoing machine piecing project ready to go.  For a long time I was working on a four-patch project and am happy to say the top is done and headed to the quilter this week. 
This is made from 1.5" cut squares, sewn into four patches, then groups of four four-patches, then groups of more groups.  It was a great "leader/ender" project as described by Bonnie Hunter on her terrific Quiltville Blog. If I had planned to make this quilt non-stop, as one big quilt project, I would have gone crazy--working on it over time, creating "units", was an easy way to get it done.

 Here is the stuff I have just to my right at the sewing machine:

On the far right are these two little containers, full of 1.5" cut squares, light and dark.  These are cut from scraps of every project I've done.  As part of cleaning up after a project, I cut pieces into the sizes needed for whatever leader/ender project I've got going:

There are many simple blocks you could choose to make as leaders/enders--just choose a color or totally scrappy, cut pieces that are the right size, and as you are starting or ending a seam you can make the parts for that quilt.  You'll be surprised how fast units get done.  I made this quilt, Baby Steps, that way, making nine-patches instead of four-patches, it's a baby quilt ready for the next baby gift I need:
3.  Have an ongoing hand-work project ready to go.  I enjoy both hand piecing and hand applique' and usually have one of each in progress.  Here is a new hand applique' block I just prepared last week:

The pattern is Louisa May's Medallion Quilt by Lori Smith.  I cut the templates, traced the background, prepared the strips of brown for Skinny Stems, and prepared the brown basket shape for reverse applique' of the handles.  All the fabrics I plan to use are in a large tote bag, ready for me to select from once the stems and basket are in place. 

I start back to full-time work tomorrow and will have very little time to prepare projects for the next four months.  Having things ready to go really helps me a lot.  I'll have more tips for you, about once a month, so check back. 

And see what other people are working on at Judy L's blog. A lot of folks are snowed/iced in this weekend so I hope much quilting is underway. 

Let's Quilt!



  1. Great suggestions! I need to get better about having a leader-ender project going. Several times a year I spend a day or two just cutting pieces for various quilts and place them in their own box with the pattern. Once I am ready to sew, it goes quickly.

  2. These are some really great ideas, Barbara. I keep stitchery projects in different stages on my design 'window' ... which does keep them in my eye. You do with what you have and I don't have space big enough for a regular design wall! Ha! I do try to keep my projects together, at least! Good luck at work! :)

  3. Barbara, these are some awesome tips! I did have a project that was machine ready in little ziplock baggies and I just pulled one out when I had quilter's block! :) It was so nice to work on it over time, and not do it all at one! Thanks for the awesome tips! :)

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  4. Great tips! I do many of the same things except for the leader/ender project. I really need to prepare one of those!

  5. Hmmm. Those leader/ender projects look intriguing, but the thought of cutting all those squares or triangles or whatever from scraps when all I want to do is pack it all away and move on... I wonder if one of those Accuquilt GO! cutters would be a worthwhile purchase just for this purpose, to stack scraps on the dies and cut a whole mess of little charms out all at once?