Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Chasing Squirrels and the QAL

Have you heard the term chasing squirrels? It refers to dogs that are easily distracted and lose focus on the task at hand. My husband uses the term all the time as he gets easily distracted by something new that comes along. I hear this often - no, I didn't get that done - saw a squirrel!

I had to laugh when I read this post on my friend Cindy's blog, Live a Colorful Life. It's an interview with Sue from Chasing Squirrels. She talks about the origin of the blog name and how she, like so many of us, starts a project and is so easily distracted when something seemingly more interesting comes along. I love how one of my friends on Instagram dubbed it "the new project high".

At a time of year when so many of us have resolved to finish up those WIPs, it seems like a good time to think about how to stay focused or maybe if it's even necessary to stay focused on finishing a project.

I'm a prime example. I had all sorts of intentions to work on a few projects before starting something new. Then I saw a squirrel!

I ran across this post with a tour of the studio where the fabulous Cotton and Steel designers work. {If you haven't seen it - go!} I admire them so much and love their aesthetic. Then I saw a quilt on the wall. The block design is Arkansas Traveler and has been on my to-do list for a while. And done in Cotton and Steel?! I was gone!

I dropped everything {including my Outlined Plus} and just had to make it. Do you ever have those moments when you just have to try something? Maybe there is a "new project high".

The good thing is I loved making it and loved how it was turning out, so I stuck with it.

I drafted the block to 8" finished, made an elongated 4-patch and paper pieced the background around the 4-patch. There are 12 points that come together and most of those intersections are far from perfect, but I love it anyway. I quilted it heavily to flatten out all the lumps and bumps.

So today I thought I'd share my feelings on staying on task - for some of you that may be working to finish your Outlined Plus.

First, I think you have to know yourself. I would love to be more like Thelma from Cupcakes and Daisies or Rita from Red Pepper Quilts, who seem to be able to work on one project at a time and actually complete it before starting the next. But that's just not me and no matter how hard I try it never will be. And that's okay!

I love what Sue says in her interview with Cindy. How important is it really to finish everything? There are so many things we "have to do" in life, why make finishing a quilting project one of them? You should really hop over and read what Sue says - I think she makes a really good point. No need to feel bad about UFOs!

But I do like to finish things. I enjoy quilting more when I don't have too many ongoing projects.  Here are some ideas that work for me:

  • I know I can't do just one, but I try to limit the number of WIPs.
  • I keep an ongoing list of what I have started.
  • I put finished tops into a drawer, but anything I'm currently piecing is out in the open and there's only so much room.
  • If I start something and really don't like it - I give it up easily. There are many things I try that don't look anything like what they did in my head.

We all have to find what works for our own personalities and circumstances!

If you're working on the Outlined Plus - you do have a bit of an incentive. Remember there are some nice prizes up for grabs if you finish 9 blocks. The deadline is Feb 17th. It's just 3 weeks away -3 blocks per week and you've got it!

So where am I? After I caught the squirrel, I got back on track and finished my 30 blocks. They're ready to be sewn together and I'll be talking about that next week!

Do you have any strategies for staying on task? I'd love if you shared them in the comments!

In the meantime, happy quilting!


  1. What helps me to stay on task is to imagine sitting curled up with the finished quilt, favorite hot beverage in hand, and a good old favorite movie to watch. It's the warmth and comfort of the quilt, seeing the whole mixture of the beautiful fabrics come together, and knowing that it's my own hands that made it. That is what makes it so satisfying.

  2. I write a list once or twice a month (depending on how productive I have been) with what I have to do for quilting, whether it's blog related, WiP related, and all the deadlines so I know what I need to have done when. So when a squirrel comes along, I know if I have time to chase it. For instance, I got a quick commissioned project that I worked on yesterday and today that I knew I could slip in and get done because my nearest deadline is far enough out. Yay! It all definitely ties into knowing yourself. Your mini quilt looks fantastic, and I bet it helped you come back fresh and excited to the outlined plus blocks.

  3. I am trying to finnish loads of UFOs this year. Have quilted three and have basted two more,have written two list quilts to finnish and quilts I want to make, hopefully that will keep me on task. I have already squeezed in some new projects including your outlined plus. Have put in together, photo next week for sure. It is hard when you are creative to stay on task. that's my excuse

  4. I definitely chase squirrels, I've also called it the "oh shiny" syndrome. For me, I love the challenge of "forcing" myself to finish UFOs especially since most of them are from when I first started quilting. They became UFOs because I didn't know enough yet to have the drive to finish. Now that I've matured, I can look at them with fresh eyes. So far for this year I have been keeping a list of projects to keep me on track... we shall see how long it lasts :)

  5. What a great post, I intend to link to it the next time a blog. While I am a bit of a nut about starting and finishing something, that's what makes me happy. Having a large To Do list makes me feel overwhelmed. But I don't always finish everything I start, if I don't like what I'm working on I have no problem passing it along to someone else or tossing it in the trash. On my 2016 Goals post so many quilters commented their goal was to finish their WIPs, and they sounded so unhappy about it. We have such little time to sew, I wish everyone would spend their time doing what makes them happy, who said every project needs to be finished, I don't think that's a law. Being done does not have to mean being finished.

  6. I see squirrels all the time. I do manage to finish projects but have so very many very old UFO's. This year I AM working on getting some of those old ones at least pieced into tops. I also have about 40 unquilted tops (some big and some small). In my defense I have worked at quilt shops over the years and many are samples I was pressed into service for making. Working at a shop is dangerous, especially if you are a squirrel like me. In between quilting for customers this year I have vowed to myself to get as many of tops quilted as possible as well as get those old WIPs/UFOs moved along into a more complete state. Enjoyed your story.

  7. I have too many crafts that I enjoy and become easily bored with one. I like to knit - especially dish cloths as they don't take much time. I don't think I have a single one in my home - I give them all away. It's the one thing my adult daughter will ask me to make for her. I enjoy cross stitching and haven't been able to do that in a few years. I had double vision and had to have surgery on both my eyes and I still cannot see well enough to cross stitch but still want to get back to it some day. I love to quilt. This Christmas season and good friend and I made nine costumes for a children's Christmas pageant at church and realized that I enjoy sewing (not just piecing) again. I get off on what I call rabbit trails. I'll see something on the internet and then that sparks and interest and hours later I've far away from the initial subject and usually have lots of pins on everything from recipes to quilts to ideas to do with my grandchildren. I do enjoy having television as company so I do handwork in front of the tv and even had cable put in my sewing studio. Many of my UFO's are such due to health issues. When I get tired, I have to just drop what I'm doing right where I am. I don't even have the energy to put it in a box. Then the next time I get a tad of energy, I have to necessary things not pleasure things.

  8. Cindy, I love this quilt. Great job as usual.

  9. I love you thoughts on squirrels. I call them "queue jumpers"--projects that I was not planning on doing that muscle their way to the front of my orderly queue of works in progress and in planning. Your Arkansas Traveler quilt is beautiful and could easily show up on my sewing table without waiting its turn.

  10. I agree. I have a ton of ideas in my head and as a result a ton of WIPs. I used to be a one project person and would love to get back to it.

  11. Cindy, this is such a great blog post, in more ways than one! I have a lot UFO's in various stages and many of them are from taking classes (while learning to quilt)! My thinking is...even if I don't finish all of them, I either learned something from the teacher I didn't know before, but more often than not, it was from a student sitting near me!
    And, don't be offended, but from now on when I see my dog, Skippy, chasing a squirrel, I will probably think of you!

  12. I totally spend my quilting time chasing squirrels. I have so many WIPs for that very reason. Although in the last year-plus I finally have finished many of them. So out of character for me....


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