Establishing Priorities–The Quilt Notebook Series

Free Motion Quilting, Spiral Flowers

When it comes to quilting, our most limited resource is TIME…


Last week we touched on the idea that many of us have long lists of “Unfinished Quilts” because we:

  • Underestimate the time required to complete a quilt or project….And we
  • Overestimate the time we have available for quilting.

Because we all have a limited amount of time for quilting, establishing goals is essential.


Spend some time this week considering each of your UFOs.  For each quilt on your UFO list, ask yourself these questions:

  • How do you FEEL when you look at this quilt?  Happy?   Excited?  Love, love, love?  Anxious?  Guilty? Disappointed?
  • Do you LOVE anything about this quilt?  The fabric, the pattern,  the colors?
  • Do you HATE anything about this quilt?
  • Has this quilt been in “deep storage” so long it looks dated?
  • Does this quilt contain materials or workmanship that are no longer your standard?
  • Did you EVER like this quilt?
  • Do you enjoy the process of this quilt?
  • Do you have all the materials you need to complete this quilt?  If not, can you obtain the materials or a suitable replacement?
  • Can you find the pattern for this quilt?  How difficult would it be to improvise or replace the instructions?
  • How much time would it take to complete this project?
  • How much time have you already spent on this project?
  • How much money have you spent on this project?  How much more money would be required to complete this quilt?
  • Is this quilt a group project?
  • Does this quilt have a deadline?
  • Do you have a “home” for this quilt?  A bedroom that needs a little freshening up with a quilt?  Or a dreary sofa that could be cheered with a new color draped over it?

FMQ, Time Management Quote


After answering the questions above about each quilt individually, look at the list as a whole and ask yourself:

  • Which quilts “sing” to me RIGHT NOW?
  • Which quilts represent YOUR BEST work?
  • Which quilts do you ENJOY making the most?
  • Which quilts would STRETCH your skills just a little?

Free Motion Quilting, Spiral Flowers


Now comes the hard part…

Pick three quilts  (and only three quilts!)  that you want to move to your “Works In Progress” list.  First, choose THE ONE quilt that is the most important for you to finish.  This quilt should be YOUR BEST work and a quilt that your children and museums will fight over.

Second, choose a quilt that you can complete in the shortest amount of time.  Finishing a quilt is a highly motivating event.  Success breeds success and helps propel other projects forward.

 Finally, choose a deadline quilt.  (Notice, I did not put the deadline quilt first–we will talk more about “Deadline Quilts” soon.)  If you don’t have any group projects or deadline quilts, choose one “Free choice quilt” –a process or color that intrigues you right now.

FMQ, Time Management Quote


Once you’ve chosen your BIG THREE quilts as Works in Progress…Put the names of those quilts in your Quilt Notebook.  Each Work In Progress gets it’s own page.  If you are using a spiral notebook, give it three or four pages.   Start by listing the “Vital Statistics” of each of the three Works In Progress.  This includes information such as:  Date started, Size of quilt, Intended Use, the pattern location…(see more HERE)

Does that mean those are the only quilts you can work on?  YES!…well, no.  At least 75 % of your available quilting time should be spent on THE BIG THREE quilts.  The rest of your quilting time can be used to learn new skills and work on any projects that suit your mood.

Don’t throw away any of your other UFOs just yet.    We will be studying ALL of our quilts…there is as much to be learned from our failures as there is from our great quilts!

Next week:  Jump starting our Works in Progress…

Happy, Relaxed and Organized Stitching,


PS…All information, tutorials and images are property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and are for personal use only.  Feel free to (encouraged) to share with your friends, Pin and re-blog with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For any other use, (or to sponsor The Inbox Jaunt), contact me at  You’re the best!

For more in our Quilt Notebook Series, read:


34 thoughts on “Establishing Priorities–The Quilt Notebook Series

  1. That’s a lot of questions, Lori!! Some of my UFQ’s are so old, I can’t remember the answers if I ever knew them. But I’ll share what I did with one of mine this past year — briefly. It was paper-pieced — have done enough of that to be able to teach it in the past but don’t enjoy it. It was navy and burgundy — deep rich colors — my home and those of my children are decorated with a light and airy feel. It was really big and a very sophisticated design, so to donate it for a fund raiser might not be productive. Once I admitted all those “answers” to myself, I determined to sell it — but it took about 9 months to actually make the move. During one of my UFQ Assault Tactics lectures, I held it up, told the story, and announced my intention to sell it “as is” (75% of the piecing was done) — son of a gun, a woman nearly knocked me over at the end to be first and buy it. What a relief!!

  2. The “deep storage” question really hit home. I have a top that has been in deep storage since 1997 and it is really dated and not up to my standards. It was an experiment in using a cross stitch pattern of a sun & moon as a quilt pattern for 2×2 inch squares. It was fun finding the fabrics to match the thread colors and sewing it together. I was delayed in finishing it due to a car accident. By the time I recovered enough to start sewing again the background fabric was no longer available at the store where I purchased it. But the store found another store that had just enough for me to finish. It was for my daughter. I recently asked her if she still wanted it and she rolled her eyes. LOL It will still be in storage because I have more current ones to finish.

      • I think each piece finished or not is a part of our journey. I have a crochet zig zag afghan my mom made that I still love because her hands made it. I enjoy looking at what I have done and attempted and what I progressed to or not. I should have done more hand quilting I was better than I thought. But I still live needketurn applique and free motion quilting

      • I do also have to say when I see the dear pieces that you post I have to try them so once again I derail myself but I also learn from what you share. Its a toss up

  3. One of my ufo’s is a warning as well. I took some hand sewing on holiday it was a hand pieced double wedding ring quilt I have about 3ft by 3 ft done, when I got home I had lost the fabric and have never managed to find the fabric although I have tried so hard. my lesson is never never take important quilts on holiday. So I have been left with this part quilt and am hopeful one day I will be struck by what I can do with it. Anyone have any ideas?

    • How awful! Sounds like prudent advice for the rest of us. Perhaps you could post the photo on Flickr and see if any readers of The Inbox Jaunt have a piece of your fabric?

      • There are so many beautiful fabrics out there now, why not look for fabrics that either coordinate, have a similar “feel” or follow the coloring to your original fabrics and turn it into a “scrappy” DWR. If you had not already started putting the rows together (or if you did and don’t mind taking them apart) the old blocks or block parts mixed in with new ones will create a wonderful “new” (and I’ll bet newer looking) quilt and will allow you to put that one to bed (pun intended).

        I don’t know about you but a DWR is a “bucket list” quilt for me so one I’d want to see finished!

      • Thank you so much not sure I’m brave enough to show my work after your beautiful perfect work but thank you so much chris xx

  4. These tactics are hitting home with me. We just moved into a new home and a new studio for me so going through all my UFOs is something I wanted to do anyway. I put together a quilt notebook and I have counted 68 UFOs so far. I used to teach quilting and many are samples for classes. I have already put one aside to get rid of and plan on doing the same with more. Some are class projects from classes I took and I really don’t enjoy the process….so those will be easy. Selling on Craig’s list or Etsy is a good idea. I just opened a shop on Etsy and am learning that whole process. Also donating to our guild charity projects is an option. I have several finished quilts that will go that route as they no longer match my decor, etc. I also have many books and magazines that need to go. How in the world do we collect so much “stuff” !! ? Thanks for pushing me in the right directions and for your great ideas on how to think about our UFOs and if we actually want to finish them. Also your quilting tutorials will come in very handy for actually finishing the ones I want to keep as that is the hardest part for me — deciding what and how to quilt them.

  5. Lori, this and the previous set of questions were a great exercise! I reviewed my lists and with the addition of today’s questions:
    1. Confirmed what were my Top 3 priorities (I kinda’ knew what they had to be but this made it official).
    2. Made me reorder some of my other ones (taking into account ALL the things you asked us to think about rather than just “when did I start this”? makes you really reconsider the priority of some projects).
    3. Forced me to accept that there are a few projects that I KNOW I will carry forward to next year but now I’m o.k. with that and that takes some of the pressure off.
    4. Also made me realize that I have things that actually will/should go INTO “Deep Storage” and I’m ok with that too!
    5. Prior to now I didn’t think I had any projects to “ditch” but there is one that I will make some time to look at and will probably ditch what was already done on it and return the rest of the fabric to stash.

    P.S. For projects in that last category, don’t over look the value of keeping an “orphan block” stash for leftover already-pieced parts and blocks — they make great scrappy quilts (ala Victoria Findley Wolf’s famous “Kitchen Sink” quilt) or pieced backing filler (ala Bonnie Hunter at Quiltvile or Lori Baker, the creative editor at Quilters Newsletter).

  6. Hi Lori, I run a gift quilt programme in Australia. Many members donate projects tops & quilts that have been long term UFOs. Most of these our team uses. Sometimes we need to make more blocks , replace ugly blocksor reduce the size of the quilt. One particularly large top made 3 smaller ones. When dealing with these projects we are always mindful of its future homes, so we try & tweak these projects so they are fresher looking & more appealing.

    • I may have to do some tweaking of my own…I thought of that too but got lost in the investigation. Long as there is no twerking goin’ on! LOL!

  7. I love this! I have completed 2 projects already and I’m working on a third. I set a goal of one thing finished per week. January was a success. February is looking good already. Thanks for the motivation.

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  10. Frustratingly… the quilt I would say is the most important for me to finish is the one where I haven’t been able to find the fabric I bought for it (now that I found the pattern, which was what was missing for a long time). *sigh*

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  12. I found a link to this post and wished I had found it earlier. Most months this year I did a 5-10 minute education segment for my quilt guild. This would have been perfect. I’d love to share my story of my first quilt and, yes, it’s still unfinished. Three of us from work decided to go to a LQS and take a quilt class. This was back in the early 80’s before rotary cutters and mats. So everything was done with plastic template, ruler, pencil, and scissors. We used a sampler pattern book. I can still see it in my mind. We put it together using Georgia Boonesteel’s lap quilting method. Of course, I had to make a king size quilt for my bed. Each week we made two blocks. During the process, we had to move out of our house, due to settling issues. The foundation was reinforced. We were living in an extended stay hotel, I had to shuttle my two children farther to daycare. Of course, eating out and trying to have snacks, etc added to the mix. Just being away from home was a trick, with children, and yes, my husband worked the afternoon shift. I still got my 2 blocks per week done. Finally, I got to the point where I was starting to quilt the quilt. Naturally, it’s muslin on the back – we had no idea of putting a beautiful print on the back and hiding our stitches, too. One day I was working on a block – interlocking hearts – I was still working on the block – not hand quilting. My husband from across our large living room told me that the design was not centered on the block. My heart sank to my feet. I never felt that I could do anything well enough, anyhow. I snapped back that, of course, it was. We had no concept of cutting the block larger and then centering the design then. So, he insisted that I bring him my seam gauge. He proudly measured and told me it was offcenter by 1/16″. I put the quilt in a box. Years later before my mother died, I sent the quilt to her to finish. She quilted in a frame and had no idea how to quilt the quilt via lap quilting. So, the quilt came back from WV to OK. Years later my husband divorced me and I’ve told many people the story. After my second husband and I divorced and before he died, my first husband and I had not spoken in years. We decided to give dating a try again. One day, I asked him if he remembered the quilt. He sure did. He said he prided himself on being able to tell if something is off-center or if a picture is not perfectly level. I told him how hurt I had been by the comment and how I felt that the quilt would never be good enough for him. He said that he was shocked that I was able to get the block that close by hand (not using some type of machine) and taking the stitches. All those years, well over 15, all that hurt had festered and never been discussed. I’ve had people tell me that some quilts were meant not to be finished. I’ve had others tell me that I need to get it out of the attic and finish it – not be defeated. Our son that he might like to have it. He has a king bed – I don’t. I do have a queen bed. I wonder if I could machine quilt the rest of the quilt or do a combo. Hand stitching might be great therapy. I often think it would be funny to finish it as horrible as it will be and put it in our guild quilt show – what not to do. We have ladies who are juried into national shows at the show.

    • Susan,
      That is a fabulous story. You MUST finish the quilt…and print this story on to a label on to the back! Your family, generations from now will love it! It is ALL YOU–the good and the bad. Just like our quilting–some of it’s good. Some of it…well… Finish it in a way –free motion quilted or lap quilted–any way that suits YOU NOW. That will complete this part of the story.

      PS…My husband can tell when things are off by a fraction of an inch, too! LOL–
      Somebody once said “can you see the mistake while riding by on a galloping horse? If not…don’t worry about it!” I think that’s how the saying goes…Does anyone else have a different version of it?

      By the way, quilting has been therapy for generations of women. Think of all the early quilters…infant mortality was so high, their lives were filled with all types of hardships. They quilted to keep themselves warm and to keep their minds focused.

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  14. This is excellent food for thought for me right now. I seem to have worked myself into having 4 “obligation” quilts (3 baby, 1 retirement), so more than merely obligation, these are also deadline quilts. And the stress has me at near standstill, creatively. Time to prioritize. Also time to make something for ME, even small, to regenerate enthusiasm…. good blog post, Lori, and spot on what I needed to read today. Thank you!

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