Thursday, August 25, 2011

Ask Bonnie!

**Note** I’m drawing the winner for Nancy Zieman’s “Sewing A to Z” book at Noon Eastern! Be sure to check back to find out who our winner is!

I love your questions! Answering them has given me pause to think and ponder and see things from a different perspective. Instead of just saying “I do it this way” I’m considering just WHY I do it this way….is there an explanation, or is that just the way I learned it, or have always done it? Am I the ONLY one doing it this way? Could there be a better way?

If a question comes in a comment, and I can reply by email directly to that commenter, I will….And then sometimes a question will come in the shape & form of an anonymous comment with no way to reply to it. What to do then?

Sometimes I’ll leave my reply in the comments section--- hoping, just hoping that the poster will come back and re-read the comments to find the answer to their question, but how often does that happen? Often when I am blog hopping I can’t even remember WHERE I’ve been or how I got there ;c) That’s the whole purpose of hopping, isn’t it? No blog left unturned?

So I’m considering adding a new feature. I’m not quite sure how to work it, if I want to do it regularly, or just now and then…but if you have a question for me on ANYTHING, just email me, and perhaps I can answer it here on the blog for you. Chances are, if YOU are asking it, someone else is also wanting to ask the same thing.

And then the comments section beneath each question could become a treasure trove of answers from all of YOU about the same topic…I’m anxious to learn how you do things too!

Just today Nell wrote:

Do you have a lot of works in progress? I mean outside of your book quilts/blocks; Do you start something and then lose interest or time or something and just shelve it?

How did you balance your own quilting with your customer quilts when you were long-arm quilting?

These are just my ponderings, no need for a quick response, I know you are getting ready to leave for your cruise.

OH gosh yes!! I have some big UFOs! I regret the time they are languishing. Some of them are big ones that I thought I wanted to hand quilt. I still want to hand quilt them. When? How? I don't know! And there they sit with the hand quilting partially started, and sitting. The Pink & Brown Dear Jane thing is one, and this random sampler is another..

orphans 007

I actually went and pulled this out because I couldn’t remember JUST how far I’d gotten on it! Farther than I thought. I’ve gone about 2 rounds of fans from the outside in toward the center…and yes, I can bind the outside edge if I am quilting from the outside in, but you have to be sure to baste really well first! Until then, I hauled this around with all it’s batting hanging out like a slip showing….like this:


I think this is at least 4 years ago? OY!! Those are Joan’s daughters helping me hold it up!

orphans 008

Left Side

orphans 011


orphans 009

Right Side

orphans 010


And I haven’t lived in Irmo, SC for 3.5 years…so we know it’s been at least that long since I finished the top! Doesn’t that make you wonder about all those quilts that you see dates pieced in, or appliqued on to? I think the quilting could have taken a lot longer AFTER that date was in place, don’t you?

orphans 012

The quilting nearly reaches the top of this picture…so I’ve made good progress on it, but it has sat for SO LONG NOW! Can you see the stitches? Click it to Biggie-Size if need be. I am quilting it in blue thread…it’s much more visible in person. Gotta get back to working on this! SERIOUSLY!

So back to the UFOs….

I've cleared out a lot of UFOs "needing to be pieced” in the past several years just BECAUSE I had deadlines! Or someone needed a baby quilt, or there was some “cause”...when making a gift quilt I find myself turning to my untouched and languishing UFOs and seeing if any of them can be completed to fit the bill. Nothing like a deadline and a need to fill to push you into finishing something. So the UFOs worth finishing have really whittled down to not much of anything left in the UFO pile worth mentioning!....

Off the top of my head...In the “Still Needs Piecing” department ---that "Nearly insane" Salinda Rupp Quilt thing is a BIG UFO. It's more than 1/2 pieced, but I have a hard time working on it when I'm more wanting to play with my own designs and ideas. The “Thinking” part of that one has already been thought through by someone else, and that is where I lose interest.

I have a smaller "Rocky Road To Kansas" block with scrappy chrome yellow backgrounds that I would LOVE to finish someday...but it's so similar to "Virginia Bound" (only a much smaller block) that I feel like....Why re-beat THAT horse?

This makes me really want to dig into my stuff and see what is there....I know there is more in the orphan box from things that people have sent me that I am dying to get in and do some funky sampler type quilts with. That would be fun. But no time for it.

There is a “Fungly Challenge” thing that I liked until I sashed it, and I don’t want to have to un-sash it to set it a way that I WILL like. UGH! You know what I mean?

What is the one big UFO that you would like to work on? Or....are you so pulled by more than one you can't decide which one to work on so you start another one? :c)

I honestly think that my time restraint for starting something new that doesn’t have a deadline has helped me from starting too many new things! Could this be good? Hmmmm!

For the burnt out long-arm quilters out there…..got any helpful advice for Nell?

As far as getting my own things quilted when I was quilting for others....that's not easy either. I scheduled 3 quilts a week for customers when I was long-arm quilting for the public. I didn't do a LOT of heavy heavy quilting, and if there was a quilt that needed more time, I'd only schedule 1 quilt that week or 2....but no more than three. I used that as an incentive to get those 3 cranked out because any empty days were MINE to quilt my own.

It's difficult when there are always more quilts waiting to be done...but I had to learn that if I didn't give MYSELF time to quilt for MYSELF...I wasn't going to be a very happy quilter, and my customers would find my creativity lacking in their quilts in the long run....avoid BURNOUT how ever you can. It's important! Even though I am no longer quilting for the public, I completely understand what you are going through!

I've got several tops that are yet to be quilted, but other quilts take the front of the line, so they sit as tops.

More thoughts --

Some of my projects, like Leader/Ender ones seem to stay back burner for a long time until I finally get the push to move on them as a primary project, and not just a between-the-lines thing....but you know, less and less and less am I able to start something just because I want to, and then allow myself to get side tracked by anything else. It seems everything has a deadline. And the hard part is keeping most things private due to an upcoming publication, when I was so used to sharing EVERYTHING in the past. I’m working on a ton of stuff I can’t show. And that is hard.

The thing that makes me feel left behind? When I post a leader/ender challenge, like for the cheddar bow ties...and people take off and run with it and are doing 100 of them a day...and I haven't been able to sit at them for weeks because they didn't work with the kind of piecing I was doing....I get all excited to play, and get left in the dust! LOL!

But it's not a race....set your own happy pace. Reward yourself for a job well done. Be sure to leave you some YOU time to feed your soul and your passion, and find balance!

Aren't we all perpetually in the search of balance? I know I am!

So how do YOU deal with your UFOs?Do you have any advice or comments for Nell? Are you a Long-arm quilter that has some advice for her on how to get some of her own quilts done?

Be sure to leave your comments in the comments section below! And if you have a question for me, perhaps I can answer it for you! Just email me!


  1. Bonnie, it says a lot about your generous spirit when you are willing to come up with fun ways for others to play and create when you have to do work stuff. I sincerely appreciate how much you do for us out here in the cyber quilt world! As for UFOs, I went through mine and really evaluated whether I was still interested in finishing each one. If not, they went into a box that I shipped to a quilt friend. She took what she wanted and then put the rest in her guild's annual sale, the proceeds of which go to their charity. It seemed like a win/win proposition to me!

  2. the way I deal with UFO's is to not have too many quilts going at one time. I have a stack of quilts to hand quilt so this year I told myself to only hand piece - of course I didn't start doing that until the year was half over. I think I will hand piece next year to so I can concentrate on getting my quilting done.
    Have fun on your cruise - hope the seas aren't rough.

  3. Thanks for a great post. It seems for every UFO I actually finish, I start 2 new quilts. Not a good way to manage UFOs.

    I love your scrappy, almost finished sampler quilt and fully understand the appeal of designing rather than copying quilts. I really enjoy your blogging, but I don't know why your days have more hours in them than mine!

  4. Anonymous7:48 AM EDT

    I vowed that 2011 would be the year to finish all UFO's, which I did the beginning of the year (took me through March). I currently have only one UFO on the shelf. (To me a UFO is a quilt top not finished, as most of my quilt tops go to my LAQ friend who does the quilting.) Therefore only one remains that needs a border. I am in the process of doing 5 (yes,5)Christmas quilts for sisters- and mother-in-law for this year. One, (the king size) is at the quilters, two more are in progress, two are still in the planning stage. Goal: to have them all completed by end of Sept. The last 4 are queen size, so more manageable.
    Bonnie, I so appreciate the work you do...you are always thinking of ways to "entertain" us with your blog, with questions for us, with helps to keep us going. I thank you for including us all in your very busy life. Thank you. Enjoy the cruise!
    Faye Bushey, Maine

  5. Bonnie, Thanks so much for all your wonderful patterns and letting us read about the going on's in your life. I come here to read you every day to see neat picturess of places you are visiting and the wonderful quilt pictures.
    UFO - my guild had a challenge last year - pick one project per month (9 guild months) and then show it at the show and tell for that month. I picked 9 and got 6 or 7 completed! It was manageable as one per month and I put my list on my blog so I could see my progress. It worked for me to get the pile down a bit. I need to do some searching and find a few projects I remember starting years and years ago but do not know where they are!
    I finally did one of your patterns - star struck! I have loved making it and I hope the person it goes to will love it too!
    Thanks for the inspiration and have fun on your cruise!

  6. I know you've said you get scraps delivered at your door sometimes but do you ever get UFOs or orphan blocks and have to figure out what to do with them?

  7. I had a friend who decided to finish her UFO's this year and that encouraged me to do the same. Very slowly I am working on it. Very slowly. I went through all the tops I have in various stages of completion and put them in chronological order. Here it is the end of August and I've only worked on the first one! Oh well. I am trying. I'm a person with more than one project going at all times. Right now I'm working on three different ones. Keeps me from getting bored with one over another.

  8. Sorry to double comment but I had another question pop into my brain.

    How do you decide which tops to hand quilt and which to longarm?

    And do you have a favorite batting for each type of quilting?

  9. Another Bonnie8:45 AM EDT

    Can we ever relate to UFO's!! I just finished quilting a beautiful Blooming 9-Patch I started 10 years ago! Selecting colors & designing is where my interest lies which is the perfect excuse to send some of my tops out to be quilted~~helps my 'guilt' and the economy.
    quiltsilk at yahoo dot com

  10. Bonnie, thanks for all you do, you're such a blessing for so many quilters! My UFO list is embarassingly large, so I guess you could say I don't really manage them at all. I even joined a UFO challenge this year, listed the quilts I wanted to finish, and I even started working on the first one or two when their number came up. Nothing from the list is finished, there were two I couldn't even find the parts to! There's something about starting a new project that I just can't resist...

    Have a great cruise, Irene's not a quilter so she's NOT invited; push all that bad weather out of the way before November 3!!


  11. Anonymous8:57 AM EDT

    Bonnie, you started out my day with a great big laugh. "Batting hanging like a slip showing." I haven't heard about hanging slips in AGES! Too funny!


  12. I don't have a plan for managing UFOs. Unless a particular project has a deadline, I just work on whatever I am in the mood to do at the time. I figure if I continue to do a little here and there, eventually it will get done. If not, then it wasn't meant to be finished. Our annual guild show has given me incentive to get some older tops to the long-arm quilter so I would have something to enter. Also, with so many storms in our area this year there has been a greater need for comfort quilts. I have donated several that no longer appealed to me, but were welcomed by relief organizations.

  13. Anonymous9:36 AM EDT

    I burned out on longarm quilting for the public due to over scheduling myself. I never allowed for machine down time or sickness. So I was always playing catch-up in my schedule. I should have only scheduled a couple of quilts a month instead of a couple each week. So my tops were just left hanging. I did this for 10 years! Yes, I know, I'm a slow learner. Now I quilt for myself and my closest friend only. I'm almost in love with my Gammill again. Still have to push myself to get started. I have finished all the tops I started through 2009. Of course they are mostly still tops. 8 down and 63 more to go. When I retire from my full-time job in two years, at least I'll have something to do. Like they said in the '60s, Just keep on keeping on....One day at a time and enjoy the process.
    gauen at mbc dot edu

  14. Anonymous9:43 AM EDT

    It's me again, burned out longarm quilter...Bonnie have you thought about writing a book about you, your travels, your thoughts, your creative process. Your blogging is captivating, fresh and real. I read your blog everyday and it's the first blog I look for with my morning coffee. I wonder how those experiences would relate into book form??? I know I would buy it.

  15. I like your idea of of a question and answer post on your blog. maybe it should happen every other week or at least once a month.
    As for my own UFO's, I have way too many. I find now though, with the price of fabric going up, my unfinished projects are becoming more appealing. And when they are finished their scraps can go into new scrappy projects that require less new fabric.
    Since I purchased a LA machine this summer I am getting some old tops finished. I appreciate the advise on how to balance personal quilting time with customer quilts. As I plan to quilt for others starting in January.
    Looks like Irene is getting out of your way just in time for the cruise. Can hardly wait to see how much fun you have with the cruise quilters.

  16. Good Morning! This little edition was like reading the morning paper! LOVED it! I love how I could link to past posts to keep up with you.

    I don't know how you can travel, share, blog and remodel. You are the "Martha Stewart" of quilting. YOU ROCK!

    I have followed you since before you were blogging. When I meet a new quilter or someone new to the internet, I send they to your space. You keep things very user friendly. Thanks for all your wonderfully interesting prose!


  17. The main motivator on UFOs is deadlines - like the fact that the babies 3 of those are for are over a year old now! So, in my attempt to get those finished, I've done 3 things:

    1. I'm not letting myself start a new quilt till I finish one of the baby quilts

    2. When I got captivated by an idea (currently, the Billboard Quilt Along) that I just don't have time for, I figured out a way to make the desired item faster. Instead of a quilt with words, I'm going to make my wallhanging with an easy batik process. I can do this in 1 afternoon, I'll like it, and I can save the quilted version for another time.

    3. As I think about all the time I waste on the internet, I'm trying to swap guilting myself into better time usage with thinking "you could have spent that 2 hours quilting". And I find I'd rather have spent it that way. So next time, I will.

  18. For my piece of mind, I don't count finished tops as UFOs -even though they aren't quilts yet. This is because my stack of projects in the the piecing stage is too long --there are 33 projects. Some are long term -- my Sylvia's Bridal Sampler, some are leader/ender projects, others, well, who knows why I set them aside - the seduction of starting something new, I got to the hard part, etc.

    To keep it from getting any worse, I keep a spreadsheet with all sorts of information. I've also spent this year focused on finishing projects -- all the way to the binding and label. I'm participating in the UFO Challenge on Patchwork Times. For this challenge I picked quilts I knew I would keep putting on the back burner if I wasn't held accountable. I may not have finished the 'correct' one each month, but I have finished something each month and then some - 19 so far this year. A hard due date makes a huge difference.

  19. I'm participating in Judy L's UFO CHALLENGE also. I haven't been as prolific as KNITOID! My UFO'S reside in shoe box totes under my Bernina Quilting table that has the same UFO loaded on it from Early June. Judy L also has a Monochromatic Challenge so I added new projects the month's I did those. I find it hard to choose to Stitch or to Quilt. So I have been stitching at home and Quilting at the Quilt Buddies studio lately. That means less days spent there though and she misses me...

  20. Anonymous11:03 AM EDT

    I do have plenty of UFO's, but I have four kids. This is where I am in my life, and I have to take things as they are. Most of my UFO's stem from feeling overwhelmed, and not knowing where to start. To combat this, I have an index card where I list short term quilt goals. For example: 1. Cut blocks for swap. 2. Baste 9-patch top 3. make templates for Halloween quilt. Etc. I have found that when I have a minute to sit down, and my mind is whirling, I can look at my list and see what the very next step is. That is much more manageable than staring at a pile of projects after dealing with kids all day. And there is something satisfying about checking these little goals off the list.

  21. Oh the glow of UFO's! I started out this year with a plan to only work on UFOs and not start or buy any new projects. Guess how long that has lasted? Even participated in a six month UFO challenge. None of the committed quilts are done although one did get to the point of being layered and I'm thankful to the challenge for that.

    Yet in the interim (and despite moving during that time) I've started and completed two new project tops (and your Floribunda should be done next by the end of this week). So all I can take from all this is it's about motivation and the muse. I work on what interests me at the moment or will most bug me about not being done. Deadlines are very heplful for some things but sometimes they also overwhelm and only when they are past can I really get perspective and relax and get back to work (and are usually surprised at how quickly that project gets finished!).

    For me the UFO challenge still stands but it will just take longer than expected to complete. As long as I am happy about the balance between what I do get done and don't smother what I dream about working on, I try not to beat myself up too much about it all.

  22. Really enjoyed reading your thoughts and musings on this subject.

  23. Anonymous12:07 PM EDT

    Bonnie, you're a treasure. Here you're about to leave on your cruise, and you have to postpone a lot of your own projects for deadlines and travel, and still you take time to post this long, useful post for all of us to enjoy and learn from. Thank you!

    I keep a detailed, running list of all my quilt projects, including what the current progress/status of the project is. If it's on the list, I can't forget about it! The list is long, but I really consider 95% of them works in progress, rather than UFO's, because it's a lack of time and opportunity (rather than motivation or interest) that keeps them from being done yet. I only think of a project as a UFO if it's stalled, stuck, or stumped by some obstacle I can't yet solve.

    Besides a thorough list, what's the best way to manage UFO's? Leaders and Enders! My L/E pieces are always from a known WIP, rather than units that don't yet have a home or a plan. It works wonders for me!

    Bon voyage, Bonnie!
    Leah Shannon

  24. Anonymous12:13 PM EDT

    Have a good,safe trip. My friend Caroline will be on the cruise and she is so looking forward to it. Sometime tell us how you get those letters on the UFO quilt you showed in today's blog. I've kind of seen the free form cutting but don't know me doesn't know how to apply them to the quilt. Lesson please.
    Diann/KY kyquiltymama@hotmail.com

  25. i really like to cut my fabric up .... i make 'kits' -- every piece cut and tagged, boxed in pizza boxes or bagged in storage bags with their patterns and stashed. pulled when i feel like sewing. then hung on hangers 'til i feel like quilting. quilting is the hard part!
    enjoy your carribean cruise! will look forward to your blogs on being asea!

  26. These days you're very busy with all the traveling, teaching and getting quilts done for the next book. As much as you love it now, at some point you may get burned out with it all and cut back considerably. Then you'll concentrate more on making "you" quilts again. I miss the days too when you could share everything you were making as you were working on it, but times change, don't they?

  27. Bonnie, I read your blog first each day. And most days ONLY your blog to be honest! I read it before I check for personal email each morning! I like the idea of a question and answer time each, mmm, month? I had wondered if you were still machine quilting for others and you answered that question today. I feel fortunate to have a quilt you did the quilting for me on. I think your blog is a great type of journal for you! I hope you enjoy reading about your past adventures as much as we do!

  28. Love the idea for "Ask Bonnie" - sounds fun. The UFO that is weighing me down is a heart bargello (totally out of my box) I should have never put it away - I just know it is going to be very hard to figure out where I left off. I have a lot of things started (some are all your fault - such as bow ties!) but it seems there is just not enough time to finish anything! Maybe I should get off of the computer!??!


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