Tips for Finishing Your Quilting WIPS (Works in Progress)

I’m so excited for this guest post today from Holly Lesue of Maker ValleyRip Through Your WIPs: How I Finished 30 Quilts in One Year.

Not only does Holly have some motivational tips to help you get organized and finish those unfinished quilting projects, but she’s got a handy free-printable (for a limited time!) to help you do it!

Hello everyone! My name is Holly Lesué. I’m a quilter, fabric collector (hoarder?), and mom of four girls.

Together with my graphic designer husband, Dave (a.k.a. Stately Type), I own and operate Maker Valley, where we design and sell sewing-themed graphic tees, quilt patterns, and enamel pins. (You might have seen our collaboration with Amy from a few months back where we created these a couple of quilting t-shirts (out of stock) and ADORABLE enamel pins!)

I also recently set myself up as a fabric wholesaler, started buying even MORE fabric (Shhh! Don’t tell Dave!), and now sell quilt kits for my Happy Christmas quilt pattern.

If you follow me on Instagram (@makervalley), you know that I quilt a LOT and that, for the most part, I finish my WIPs (my Work-In-Progress quilting projects). In fact, for the past two years, I’ve finished 30+ quilts each year. Looking back, that amazes me—because I am NOT naturally an organized, driven, “finisher” type of person.

I LOVE the thrill of starting a new project, but many projects can become… boring to me after that initial rush. The fun wears off. And it becomes really tough to work up the focus/interest/drive to finish them. They start to feel like a chore—almost like more housework.

And then, in the middle of that slog, more often than not, a shiny new project idea will pop into my head! Magically alluring, exciting, not at all tedious. FUN. …and I drop the WIP to start yet another project. I’ve struggled with this in the past—jumping from one project to another and slowly building up a backlog of unfinished WIPs that starts to feel insurmountable. Left unchecked, it can get to the point where quilting ALMOST stops being fun. Does any of this sound familiar?

Today, I’m going to share the 3 keys I have discovered and used to break this cycle, motivate myself into finishing my WIPs before moving on to new projects, and get the FUN of quilting back in my life.

Organize your quilting projects

To help me overcome the vicious WIP cycle, a few years ago, Dave and I created a Quilting Organizer Pack PDF. We normally charge $3 for the digital download, but with the exclusive code AMY50 for Diary of a Quilter Readers, you can get them 50% off at makervalleybrand.com

Ok, now that you’ve got the PDF and can refer to it as you read along, without further ado, here are 3 motivational keys I’ve used to rip through my WIPs:


Key 1: Declutter your brain! (get those WIPs right out of your head)

I found that the biggest problem with accumulating all those unfinished WIPs was the mental toll they took on me. It was like my brain had too many browser tabs open and my mind (my creativity) started to run S-L-O-W-L-Y. Even when I started a fun new project, the ghosts of all those unfinished WIPs quietly haunted me—stultified me. This might sound overly dramatic, but they seriously sapped my joy and creativity! I realized that just like a computer, I needed a reboot. I needed to get all of those WIPs out of my head and into a more manageable spot where I could see and deal with all of them at once.

I created the “WIPs to Finish (The Terminator)” sheet to give me that reboot. As you can see, it gives you one place to write down all of your quilting projects (and finally get rid of the mental clutter they are creating in you). Take a few minutes and write down all of your WIPs now. Declutter that brain!

One final note on this key: over the past couple of years, I’ve found that the best part about decluttering my brain of my WIPs, is that it recharges my creativity and drive! Once my brain was clear, I was able to focus on new ideas and projects.

Key 2: Break WIPs up into bite-sized chunks (then generate momentum through easy wins)

Once you’ve written down all your WIPs on the “WIPs to Finish (The Terminator)” sheet, use the columns to mark your current state of progress for each one. Each WIP will be in a different spot—are you working on your blocks, your borders, your binding? Whatever step you are on, mark it down. I found that these progress columns helped me to see each WIP—not as one giant, insurmountable project—but as a finite set of bite-sized (totally finish-able) tasks.

Once that’s done, look for the WIP that is closest to being done. Which one would be the easiest project to complete? I love to focus on those low-hanging fruit WIPs and knock them out because they generate energy in me—I get SO motivated when I see that I can complete these projects!


Key 3: Track progress and reward yourself

Finally, with your WIPs written down, their current progress marked, and a few easy wins checked off, start using the “WIPs to Finish (The Terminator)” sheet to track your overall WIP progress. There’s something magical about checking things off of a list! Seeing progress over time helps to keep me motivated and on track. I also like to use rewards like the 2-for-1 Rule: tell yourself you can’t start your next fun project until you check two WIPs off the list.

That’s it! Thank you all so much for your time! I hope these keys help you to rip through your WIPs!


P.S. If you haven’t seen our sewing/quilting-themed tees and enamel pins before, you should check them out at makervalleybrand.com They make great gifts for quilting friends.

Thanks Holly! Some great motivation to just tackle those WIPS (works-in-progress projects).

I used these same Organizer Sheets in 2016 and 2017 and can attest to their effectiveness. It just feels so good to track your progress. Especially when you mark another quilt DONE.

I’ll admit to falling off the wagon for 2018, so I’ve already printed my new pages and this weekend I’m going to make lists and assess my WIPs!

If you don’t follow Holly (Maker Valley) or Dave (StatelyType) on Instagram, then I highly recommend following both of them. Not just for gorgeous quilty-inspiration, but just for happy, good vibes. They are a great team.

Thanks so much for sharing your tips and your Organizer Sheets, Dave and Holly!

Remember, the Organizer Sheets are 50% off exclusively here with code AMY50, so grab them and get organized!


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  • Reply
    August 31, 2018 at 7:53 am

    These are great! I typically use the notepad feature on my phone, but sometimes it’s nice to have a piece of paper in front of you. I’m in “too many tabs” mode now myself, and hoping to clear some out this three day weekend.

    The other tip I’d add is to always have a good stash of batting and backing–something I just stocked up on with Labor Day sales going on.

  • Reply
    August 31, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Just reading this post made me motivated to work on my WIPs. I was all gung ho the first quarter of 2018 and made great progress and then fell off the wagon. I’m ready to hop back on! Thanks girls!

  • Reply
    Marilyn Rich
    August 31, 2018 at 10:39 am

    Love your WIP charts! Just what I need. Thanks so much.

  • Reply
    Shasta Matova
    August 31, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    These are great tips, and I do try to follow these when I start getting overwhelmed. Love all the gorgeous quilts you shared with these tips.

  • Reply
    Mary Bond
    August 31, 2018 at 4:57 pm

    Do you hand quilt or machine quilt?

    • Reply
      September 1, 2018 at 6:10 pm

      I (Amy) and Holly both have our quilts machine quilted. I’m the first to admit that fact definitely does speed up the process when finishing quilts.

  • Reply
    Rita Wayman
    August 31, 2018 at 6:07 pm

    Can’t read it when printed in black and white since the pdf is colored. Any suggeztions?

    • Reply
      September 1, 2018 at 6:08 pm

      Hmm. Every printer is different, so I’m not sure. Sometimes you can darken the grayscale in the settings before you print?

  • Reply
    Little Quiltsong
    September 1, 2018 at 6:30 am

    Loved this post and hearing more about Holly and seeing all her beautiful quilts! Just seeing her quilts inspires me to make some of them! Great tips on WIP’s – thank you!

    • Reply
      September 1, 2018 at 6:08 pm

      Doesn’t she have some awesome quilts?!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2018 at 6:56 am

    She makes me feel better about myself- she describes exactly how I quilt!?. I have used her charts and they are awesome and really help keep me focused. Thanks for sharing this!

    • Reply
      September 1, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      I’m so glad! You’re welcome!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2018 at 7:35 am

    I use a checklist in my planner to track my WIPs and it definitely helps. But… I still hate basting. That’s where I stall out every time.

    • Reply
      September 1, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      Oh man, basting is just so unexciting. I hear you!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for this post!! I love the download lists and all the fantastic advice!! This is genius and I feel motivated already!! I am off to print my lists and start getting my WIPs organized and DONE!!! First, off to look at some quilty tee shirts!!!!?

    • Reply
      September 1, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      Yay! I’m so glad it was inspiring!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Thank you for the link – very helpful post.

  • Reply
    September 1, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    great tips!

  • Reply
    September 1, 2018 at 9:44 pm

    Rather like the financial advice—pay off the debt with the smallest amount (the project nearest to being done) first. Then move onto the 2nd smallest debt, using the payment of the now nonexistent 1st debt combined with the payment of the 2nd debt—-insert “time” for “money” in your “payment schedule” for getting rid of WIPs. The problem is that you have given us all a whole bunch of new “squirrels” to chase by directing us to Maker Valley 🙂

    • Reply
      September 3, 2018 at 10:33 am

      Yes! Perfect analogy!

      And I hear you about the “squirrels”… lol

  • Reply
    Danice G
    September 1, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Wow, 30 quilts in one year. My goal for 2018 is to finish all of my 18 WIPs and UFOs, and so far so good. Thanks for the tips and the free pdf sheets. The pineapples quilt is stunning.

  • Reply
    Gayle Allen
    September 2, 2018 at 1:02 am

    Hello from Australia ? I look forward to printing out your sheets, especially THE TETMINATOR. Have almost finished a quilt that has fought me all the way grrrr. Almost cut it up just got sooooo cranky. Your handy hints are valuable, thank you so much. I kept telling myself i couldn’t start my spinning stars until this rotten quilt is finished. If i didn’t like the coloyrs so much would have binned 6 months ago??? Thanks again, Gayle

  • Reply
    sheri forrester
    September 2, 2018 at 9:29 am

    this looks like a great approach for me! I have so many WIP’S right now I can’t even get into my sewing room to put anything away! LOL So amazing! Gotta start finishing some of these things! Thanks for the pdf sheets!! I’m ready to go to work!!

  • Reply
    Mom C
    September 2, 2018 at 9:44 am

    My DIL gifted me with these sheets in 2016 and I used them ever since. Holly’s absolutely right, they declutter the brain. I changed 2 columns, replaced “sent to quilter” since I do my own quilting to Label and “Share” with photo because those are the 2 projects I most often forget. I finally made 6 quilt labels and attached them so I can finally check of those boxes! Thanks Holly, and Thanks Amy. I didn’t know where they came from but now I do. They have been the best list I’ve ever used.

  • Reply
    September 2, 2018 at 5:54 pm

    Thank you for the charts but I cannot read them when printed in yellow! Too bad there is no way to have a black/white option.

    • Reply
      September 3, 2018 at 10:34 am

      Thanks for the feedback! I will pass that along.

  • Reply
    Rebecca Bostick
    September 5, 2018 at 9:37 pm

    This is GREAT! I wish, however, that I’d seen it earlier. Nevermind! I paid the $2.99 for the sheets and can’t wait to print them out and get started getting things DONE. My new year’s resolution (LOL) was to quilt one quilt each month. Well, life happened; and I’ve gotten two quilted and made a tee shirt quilt from start to finish for graduating granddaughter. The best laid plans —
    I hope to get my quilt guild to agree to a WIP challenge. I’ll use these hints to encourage the members and we will see how it goes.

  • Reply
    September 8, 2018 at 8:14 pm

    I did nothing more than print the worksheets and start pulling out WIPs and started working on the first one I found – lol! I clicked on the link from your newsletter – that was a good click for me. ?

    • Reply
      September 9, 2018 at 3:25 pm

      Way to go!

  • Reply
    September 10, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    I’ve made a rule for myself that I can only have three quilts going at the same time before I can start a new one. They may be all in different states of progress, and sometimes all three are sitting ready to be quilted. My rule has worked for me quite well.

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