How to organize quilt projects
It’s September, the temperatures are cooling and I feel like I’m already behind in my crafting schedule. As quilters, a top priority becomes the need to plan and organize quilt projects in preparation for the upcoming holidays. Today, I have some clear steps and great tools to help you organize, prioritize and make a plan to get the important projects done.
Steps to organize quilt projects
Sew many quilts, sew little time? That is something I hear quilters say all the time. If you’re like me, you want to do all the things. I’m constantly starting something new before I’ve finished the last project. Much of my work has a deadline so that helps me stay on track. But for most quilters, a few tips on how to manage and plan their sewing time can be very useful. I’ve come up with five steps to help you organize quilt projects.
Step 1 – Make a list of current projects
All good planning starts with a list! Quilters often have ongoing projects like BOM’s (block of the months) and lots of UFO’s (unfinished projects) and ideas for things we want to make that pull at our focus. I’ll bet you don’t even know how many WIP’s (works in progress) you have!
First, do a brain dump and write down all of your UFO’s and WIP’s. Then do a physical inventory of your quilting/sewing space(s) to make sure you didn’t forget anything; include anything else you find.
Step 2 – Prioritize current projects
Look at your list and prioritize each item. Maybe there are some things you can cross off the list. Here are some things to consider.
- Are there any deadlines? Gifts or group projects often have a due date. Write it down and put it at the top of the list.
- Do you still want to finish the project? You may have grown tired of it or the fabric or pattern no longer fits your style. If so, donate it to an organization or see if a quilting buddy is interested in finishing it.
- Is this project still worth your time and energy? Maybe it’s beyond your skill level. If you know you will never get it done, why carry around that burden?
- Do you have everything you need to finish the project? Consider whether you can still get the missing items. If not, maybe this one is meant for the donation pile.
Step 3 – Make a wish list of new projects
This is probably my favorite step! Considering the current time of year, you may want to start planning some Christmas/Holiday projects. Quilted gifts and home décor are always on my radar.
Think about who you want to make gifts for and then look through your books, magazines and patterns for projects that might work. I love looking on Pinterest to find ideas. You can start by checking out my Christmas Quilting Idea Board on Pinterest. It has everything from quilts, table runners, pillows, wall hangings, stockings and more. After a quick search, I found these 37 Quilted Gift Ideas from DIY Joy that are perfect for anyone on your list.
Write down any new projects that you want to make and try to be realistic. You might not finish a bed-size quilt for your niece in time for the holidays. On the other hand, making a mug rug for each of your siblings is definitely doable.
Prioritize this list as well. A hostess gift for Thanksgiving at a friend’s house might be closer to the top of the list than a Christmas project. Maybe you would rather focus on gifts to make others rather before another table runner for yourself.
You can keep this list separate or you can integrate it into the Current Projects list. It’s up to you. I like to keep mine separate, but I will also add a line item for Holiday Projects to the Current Projects list. Then I will decide where to prioritize it in that list.
Step 4 – Schedule it
It doesn’t do much good to make a list and prioritize it if you don’t schedule time to chip away at your list. Here are a few tips.
- Put it on the calendar! One hour every Sunday to work on UFO’s will add up to crossing off something from your list. Starting a new project and scheduling 30 minutes each day towards finishing it will feel so good!
- Hang your project list on the wall of your sewing space or near your calendar. Having it in plain sight may be all the reminder you need.
- Sign up for a quilt retreat. This is a great way to devote a chunk of time to work on your projects.
- Find a quilting buddy and be each other’s accountability partner. This adds extra motivation to keep up with your goals.
Step 5 – Don’t add until you subtract
Avoid adding any new projects to your lists until you’ve finished one! If you want to tip the scales toward a shorter list, focus on finishing what you started. If you know you’ll be focusing on making gifts in October, then you should resist that new quilt along that looks so amazing. There will always be more shiny new things in the future that will be equally amazing.
Tools to help you organize and plan
We quilters love our tools! Thankfully there are some great tools and resources available that will help you organize your UFO’s, WIP’s and new projects. These can also provide a way to plan your quilting life so you can reach your goals and get things done!
If you like using a planner, there are several great ones available that are designed specifically for quilters. Here are three of my favorites.
The Quilter’s Planner (affiliate link). This one is my top choice because I can organize my quilting life and personal/work life in one place. This planner is customizable – you can choose the cover design, which day the weeks starts on and choose a weekly calendar design that works best for you. It also includes project planning pages, a monthly habit tracking page, a quilter’s reference section, and a total of eight patterns. Plus, it’s gorgeous!
BONUS: Use the discount code craftyquilter for 10% off The 2023 Quilter’s Planner! This code is good through the month of September. You can read how I stay organized with my Quilter’s Planner here.
A Quilting Life Planner & Workbook (affiliate link). I think Sherri McConnell of A Quilting Life is the queen of organization. She designed this planner & workbook with quilters in mind. It’s spiral bound and un-dated so you can start at any time. It has WIP pages, goal setting, organization ideas, planning pages, lists, inspiration, and more. On her blog, Sherri has tips and videos on using this planner.
2023 Bee in My Bonnet Planner (affiliate link). This planner is designed by Lori Holt who is someone that knows everything there is about quilt planning. This is spiral bound with sections for monthly and weekly planning. It includes a notes section, weekly to-do list, and monthly check-ins for priorities, shopping, health and personal goals. It’s smaller than the others at 5.75″ x 8.5″ x 1.25″.
Planning pages are perfect if you want something simple to keep track of your projects. Sometimes you don’t need an entire calendar system and these project planners allow you to focus on just your quilting projects.
These free quilt project planner printable pages are compilments of Melanie at Hello Melly Designs. You can print out as many as you need and even choose from three colorways! Everything you need to know in one spot is super convenient.
This free sewing and quilting planner from Simple Simon & Company has everything you need to keep track of each project. There is even a grid so you can design your own quilt and an area for fabric swatches.
This free download from Pixels to Patchwork includes two printables. One is for individual projects and the other is for projects at a glance. You can choose a pdf or MS Word for editing capability.
If you want something fancy for your quilt planning, you can search on Etsy for some really cute printables. The prices will vary, but usually you’ll get a variety of downloads to suit your needs. Otherwise, a piece of paper and a pencil will do!
Are you ready to organize quilt projects, plan some new ones and set some goals? I’ve made my lists, I just need to put them on the calendar. I think it’s going to be a productive season for us quilters!
Julie, I have followed you for some time, have done several of your
projects and quilts. Would you ever consider doing a post of how to price your quilts. I am in a quandary as to the value of mine.
Great post Julie – this morning I was thinking about organization as I thumbed through a couple of quilt magazines. I am holding on to a few because there are projects in them that I would love to make. So clipping the patterns and organizing what I want to do next is on my mind.
At a thrift shop the other day I picked up a large whiteboard and I think I will use that for a list of WIPs and what I want to do next.
Julie … such clear suggestions … and what a mentor 🙂 … whether here, or as a gentle, patient support in class, thank-you.
Hi Julie. I love your organizational techniques! I am in the process of sorting through my piles of scraps and color-coordinating them into bins. I pulled up your article on “Easy Scrap Fabric Storage Bins” from 2017 and, as always, find it to be very useful information. I even discovered the storage bins that I had purchased several years ago from Target, which got buried in my closet. Yikes, guess it is time to organize! Thank you for your blogs.
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