A Solution to Quilting Slumps


I was amazed at the response I got to last week’s post. Apparently I am not the only quilter who has experienced a slump over the last few months. In fact, it seems like many of my readers fall into the “slump” category. Luckily, I think I’ve figured out one of the main reasons.

Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with (lack of) time or (lack of) space. I think our quilting slump has to do with a mindset that we need to complete our UFO’s —  and use up our stash — before we buy anything new. As a result, we’re surrounded by projects that no longer excite us. However we refuse to start  something new until we finish the old projects … and we end up watching summer TV re-runs instead of quilting.

I’ve been a homeschooling mom for nine years. In the beginning, I would get very frustrated as my kids jumped between interests. Over the years, my son went through phase that included falconry, archery, woodworking, primitive skills, architecture, bowling, and fish farming. It would bother me to spend money to support his interests, only for him to decide that something else would be more fun. Then someone explained to me: Once a child has learned what they need to learn from an activity, it is a success. I realized that my kids did not need to finish everything they started.

I did bring this philosophy with me into the quilting world. I am not very fond of sampler quilts, for example, so I make my block of the month samples and never intend them to be end up in a quilt. I’m okay knowing they are a learning tool and … yes … even throwing the ugly blocks away. But I’m not quite as open-minded with partly made quilts that required a significant financial investment, or that I’ve made a mistake on but don’t have replacement fabric, or that I’ve just decided I don’t like any more.

This year, I took a look at my massive stash and pattern collection, and decided not to buy anything more until I made a dent in what I already had. I kept my promise for six months … and I did absolutely no quilting in that time either. Although I congratulated myself for keeping the quilting budget under control,  I just kept looking at my UFO’s and feeling bad for not working on them.

Quilters are creative and visual people. For us, there is something very exciting about new patterns and new fabric — even if we don’t need it. As I corresponded with people over the last week, I saw the same  plan to “use what we have” lead to the result of not quilting.

I made a couple of choices in the last week that re-ignited my excitement about quilting. I signed up for an online block of the month. I bought a little bit of new fabric. And I started reading my backlog of quilt magazines.  My big decision, however, was to let my substantial pile of UFO’s remain unfinished so I could regain my passion for quilting. I’m not yet ready to get rid of them, but I’ve made peace with the fact they won’t be finished anytime soon.

I’m not suggesting you spend next month’s mortgage payment on new fabric. But I bet a new pattern and a few fat quarters would spark some enthusiasm. I know I am thrilled to feel my passion growing after six months of feeling stuck.


6 responses »

  1. Thanks for this post. It’s exactly what has happened to me. On the other hand, I have a lot of unfinished projects. Maybe if I just admit that I’m a fabric and pattern collector, and ignore the sewing and quilting part, I’ll be more inline with my true love…. :)

    • I have to say that I share your love of collecting patterns and fabrics. Nobody complains when people collect useless stuff like stamps and ceramic pigs … yet we feel that we’re not entitled to having our own collection. Definitely somethign to thing about.

  2. Your post made me think about why I am “slumped”. – It ‘s because I am afraid to machine quilt again. I am pretty much still in the meander stage and I want to be in the “feathers and Leah Day” stage – without the practice it takes!!! So instead I do nothing except hand piece – because it’s easy for me and there is no possibility of “making a mistake”. Yikes! I should have been an analyst. I will keep you posted as to when I take the leap back to the quilting frame. Thanks for your very insightful post.

    • Thank you for your comment. I think that perfectionism is a whole other issue. Somehow I managed to avoid that problem, but I know it’s a biggie. It is also disheartening when we compare ourselves to people who are naturally gifted or have been doing it for 50 years. (I think Leah Day is in the first category.) Good luck and keep practicing.

  3. You have all of us really thinking. An interesting phenomenon has happened to me the past few months. I, too, have vowed to use up a lot of what I have instead of buying a bunch of new stuff and, if, on the occasion I do buy something, I am working it up within the week I buy it! I didn’t intend that – it just happened, pleasantly to my surprise. And, get ready for this – I attended a quilt show with friends last week and came out empty-handed! I figure I have a quilting angel watching over me and tending to my commitments to myself.

    • I think there’s probably a good combo of old and new projects, but it’s so interesting how the new stuff excites us. I wish I could figure out a way to do that without buying any new fabric. Good luck to you.

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