Thursday, June 29, 2017

Tips and Tricks for Working on Multiple Quilt Projects

For some reason, I've never been a quilter who works on just one project at a time.  If there's a deadline for a project, I can make myself work on one quilt at a time.  Well mostly, because there has to be a leaders and enders project going at the same time.  But my sweet spot is working on about 4 quilts at a time.  Usually all in various stages of completion.  The maximum I've ever tried at one time has been six or seven.  That was too many, I didn't feel like any one project was getting anywhere.  Organization is key when trying to handle multiple projects at once.  I'm still learning how to improve work flow, but maybe some of what I've learned will help speed up your work flow. 

Work Area Set Up:

I have two design walls, a large and a small one.

This picture is from 2013, so it's older, but it illustrates the point.  There are four projects in progress.  If the blocks are small they will stay up on the design wall, if the blocks are larger, just the ones I'm working on go up on the wall.  That helps me see where I'm at in the construction process on multiple projects. 

Projects in Progress Organization:

Having a place for the projects in progress and the fabric in use makes it easy to find exactly what part I'm looking for.  

All of my projects are in project boxes.  The blocks and or block pieces for a project are either up on a design wall or in a project box.  It keeps my sewing space uncluttered and I can usually find exactly what I'm looking for.  The other trick that's been a life saver is how my fabrics are folded and stored.  The third shelf down are all the fabrics that are being used for the projects in the boxes.  I fold my fabrics much like they are on a bolt. I can unfold part of the yardage, give it a touch up press and then cut whatever pieces I need.  Since cutting isn't my favorite step, I tend to cut as I go, so there are less loose pieces for me to keep up with.  

Assembly Line Construction:

I learned about chain piecing in my first quilt class.  Not sure I can sew any other way now.  The big challenge has been where to store all the different block pieces for different projects so I can easily get to them as I'm lining up the various pieces to sew.   A recent addition to the sewing room seems to have solved that. 

I ordered this 5 drawer unit from Pottery Barn Teen when it was on sale earlier this year.  Each drawer has parts and pieces for the various projects in the work.  The top drawer as the pieces for this year's Rainbow Scrap Challenge blocks, the next has pieces for En Provence, the current leaders and enders project.  Another drawer have the pieces for the Christmas Angels quilt which is my current third project.  

When I sit down to sew, I start lining up the blocks.  

From left to right is the binding for the Meadow Mist Mystery quilt, the RSC block, HSTs for the Angel quilt, sashing for En Provence and then En Provence block that I'm using as my lender and ender at the moment.  Yes, I could have done more than 2 of the HSTs for the Angel quilt, but I tend to make those in small sets so I'm not at the cutting table cutting them all at once.  That's one of the cutting chores I really dread.  Sprinkling those dreaded HSTs in with a set of other blocks keeps me moving that project along.  Is it fast?  No.  But I'm able to keep the project moving and it doesn't end up forever on the UFO list because of a step that is hard for me to power through.  

Method to the Madness:

When I started making quilts again, I had a two year old at home and a full time job that involved a lot of over time.  My sewing time was really, really limited.  Very often 15 minutes of sewing time was all I could eek out on a regular basis.  But I found a process that allowed me to make the most of that time. This is my work process:

1.  Cut whatever pieces are needed
2.  Pin the pieces at the sewing machine
3.  Chain sew what's sitting at the machine
4.  Press all the seams
5.  Repeat

With my 15 minutes one night, I'll cut what's needed for the next step.  The following night I'll use the time to pin all the pieces and maybe sew a few together.  The next night finishing stitching and press.  It's not a lot at any one sitting, but if I manage 15 minutes every night, there's a good deal of progress in a week.  

Recently I've learned that picking one project as the focus for the time period really helps with getting to a finish.  The One Monthly Goal has really helped with that.  So if it's just 15 minutes, that's the project where the time gets spent.  

Progress for the year using this approach:

4  Finishes
1  Binding in progress
1  Ready to send for quilting
1  UFO moved from pieces to finished blocks
1  Steady progress on En Provence 

We are all different in how we work best, this seems to fit the rhythm of my life.  What works or doesn't work in yours?     


  1. Lovely set up to your working stations to help with your pogress. I really like the little rolling drawer cart. Clear containers make for 'visual' which is so important to keep on tract.

  2. I have bits and pieces everywhere! I am in an unorganised phase at the moment but I have managed to make some progress on some UFO's recently. I need a tidy up session but I'm putting that off for a bit!

  3. I'm usually working on more than one project, but I'm not nearly as organized, not even close!

  4. Thank you so much for sharing your process and sewing room pictures!!! I am so jealous that you have not one, but two design walls! I love to chain piece everything too, and it just goes so much faster! :) :) :)

  5. Great ideas here. I agree four projects is a good number, although I also have four embroidery projects in addition to my piecing projects. I was up to too high a number for a while, and I still have six piecing projects. Getting them down to that magic number little by little.

  6. Thanks for sharing your process. I can manage about 2-3 projects at a time plus random leaders/enders, but I think I'll try your organization system for the current projects and the fabrics for them.
    I love my new die cutter, especially for HSTs and Tri-Recs. Drop me a line if you want to know more about how it saves me time and cutting effort.

  7. Impressive. I love your organization. And I work on several quilts on a time as well.I have several in almost finishing stages and that is rewarding as both are UFOs. But my sewing room looks like disorganization with piles everywhere. And I don't care.

  8. I LOVE reading organization posts and how other quilters organize their work. I'm skimmed through this real fast and am definitely going to read it again when I get home. Just wondering, when you begin making a quilt, do you cut out ALL of the pieces before you start sewing anything?

  9. You're so very organized!

    This year, I cut all the pieces for RSC quilts at the beginning. While this has been limiting in terms of color some months, it has been glorious to pull out each set of blocks for the month, sew, and tuck them back away. I have a project for each size I keep: 1", 1.5", 2", 2.5", and orphan blocks, as well as hoarded hand dyes. It's working this year. Of course, I'm on the hunt for simple blocks for next year, as well as ways to again dive more into my stash, as my scraps are getting a bit repetitive.

    Each week, I had handwork, travel work, and maybe two or three machine bits. I'm looking forward to finishing my handwork, as it is massive, and I will have a bit more time for other sewing!

  10. I cant imagine working on 4 quilts at one time. I am in awe, lol... Love your sewing room. I need a design wall. How is yours made. Hugs, LJ

  11. I am like you, I have to have several at once, so that I can work on whatever I think I can do in the time I have. I try to go through my focus quilts to see what I can do to move it a little closer to done. I have lately noticed I am losing parts, so I need more organization - love your post

  12. I like your process - I am not nearly as structured in mine - I generally work on whatever sounds good at the time I sit down to sew! My planning/storage system is more like piles of projects on my cutting table! When I have a deadline I am working towards, I am much better!

  13. I use a similar process - working on more than one quilt at a time, and fifteen minutes or so at a time. Love it when I get longer stretches of time! I also have gotten better about putting all the stuff for each quilt in its own project box. I don't have a design wall, but that is next on the list.


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