Now that I’m home, all of my recent travels are finished, and the garden has almost been put to bed for the winter, I decided that it was time to dig out a UFO (unfinished object) and get to work. I have a few of those around, both quilting and knitting ones, and I don’t like to have them lingering. They loom over me like a big looming thing, casting a shadow over any desire I have to start something new.
I recently finished off three knitting projects that had been UFOs for months and even years. It was such a relief to get those finished. Now I’d like to get a couple of these quilting UFOs finished, too. With this in mind, I dug out the two unfinished Crooked Rail Fence quilt tops and had a look at them. They’ve been sitting in a plastic bin for almost 3 years, along with fabric that I had purchased for borders and backings.
Here is one of the tops:
Now that the quilt tops have been sitting on my ironing board for a couple of days, I realize why I stopped working on them. I’d run into a problem. I wasn’t happy about where I was going with them, but I wasn’t sure why. I was stuck. So I did what I often seem to do – I put them away and did something else.
When I stop to think about it, this is why most of my long-time UFOs end up lingering. I reach a point where I am stuck. Something goes wrong and I don’t know what it is. Or I do know what’s wrong, but I don’t know how to fix it. Or I know what I want to do to fix it, but I’m not sure that I’m up to the challenge involved. Or the next step in the project is something that’s difficult or new and I’m hesitant to do it in case I mess it up. What those reasons all boil down to is that I get stuck, and instead of working to get unstuck I set the project aside and ignore it.
I’ve been asking myself why I got stuck when making these two quilts, and the answer I’ve come up with is this: I don’t want to put borders on them. I’d spent all kinds of time trying to decide on the colours of the borders and how wide they should be, without really stopping to consider whether I wanted borders on them or not. What finally got me asking this question was the lecture I attended at the International Quilt Festival in Houston on Modern Quilts. One of the features of Modern Quilts is that they often don’t have borders.
When I was taught how to make a quilt, I was taught to add at least one border, and sometimes two or three of them. Borders could be plain, pieced, or appliquéd. They could be narrow, wide, or in between. But they were always there. They were the frame around the picture that was the quilt top. They made the quilt bigger. They were often a place to add some fancy quilting. I’d just assumed without thinking that these quilts needed borders. But when it came time to cut the fabric for the borders and sew them on, I just didn’t want to do it. And now I know why.
Now that I’ve made that decision, I’ve had another look at the size of the tops as they now stand. They are each 8 blocks by 10 blocks (each block is 6” square), which makes them 48” by 60”. I don’t think they’re quite big enough to be good napping-under quilts. I don’t want them to be full bed-sized quilts, but I do want them to be big enough to cover a snoozing adult. I think that if I add one more column and two more rows they’ll be a perfect size. That would make them 9 blocks by 12 blocks (54” by 72”), which is almost the size of a standard double bed mattress (54”x75”). A little math tells me that I need to make 28 more blocks for each quilt top. I think I can manage that without too much trouble. And I can use up some stash fabric in the process.
It’s interesting to me how much better I feel now. These quilts have been causing my brain to itch every time I thought about them. I wasn’t happy, but I didn’t know why. I just knew that I didn’t want to work on them.
Being stuck – it isn’t much fun. Getting unstuck takes a bit of investigation, and perhaps some inspiration, and a few new ideas. Sometimes it takes a bit of courage to try something new, or a bit of instruction in how to do something unfamiliar. Sometimes it might even mean giving up on the project. Whichever it is, it’s much better to get unstuck than to let unfinished projects linger forever.