What to do: Finish something

Mal | Art Process and Creativity | Friday, May 1st, 2009

Hex upright stack

I wonder how many Works in Progress (WIP’s) and Un-Finished Objects (UFO’s) are sitting out there in blogland with confused artists behind them. What happened in the project to make the maker abandon it? What went wrong? Why did the spark of creative ambition get doused?


Jacquie of Tallgrass Prairie Studio recently hosted a month-long warcry: Spring to Finish! Nearly 100 makers pledged to complete their unfinished projects and report back. People, that’s a lot of unfinished projects! (If you think you missed your chance, BurdaStyle is running a similar sew-along until the end of May.) How do we end up with so many unfinished projects in the first place, and what shall we do about them?

Maybe the projects are darlings that need to be killed off. Maybe there is one particular part of the process that you enjoy, but not another. Maybe you have a tape playing in your head that says, over and over again, You are no good at ______________ (matching colors, drawing perspective, hand sewing, glazing, black-and-white photographs, composition, punctuation, whatever). Maybe we get so many unfinished projects that it seems impossible to finish any of them.


A wonderful solution was used recently by Melissa at Whatnot: take an unfinished project, slice it up, repurpose it, simplify the original idea, reduce the scope and scale of the vision, and turn it into something which, though different from that first intention, is wonderful in its own way. Melissa killed her darling and made its corpse into something great. Good on you, Melissa! (Update: V of Bumblebeans is also slicing up old blocks and making new.)

During the Great Sort that is going on in my apartment, I found a stack of pieced blocks from an old finished project. I don’t have that many works in progress, in general, so it sort of shocked me to find these unfinished blocks in a tidy stack. I don’t remember what I originally saved them for. They were left over from a large quilt project that I finished years ago. Now I’m going to follow Melissa’s lead and turn them into something altogether different than what they were originally intended. Can’t wait to show you.

Sometimes self-help books and how-to articles and productivity gurus can get a bit esoteric about things like “How to get things done.” However, if you’re looking for some further reading on the why’s and how’s what-fors of finished and unfinished projects, try these. They’re not half bad.

What keeps you from finishing your projects? How can you take something unfinished and turn it into something else entirely?


  1. AH those images are great! I love all those colors- it’s great to see on a gloomy great day. Good for inspiration. Thanks.

    Comment by Liz — 1 May 2009 @ 8:03 am

  2. thank you for your message. sometimes i let the bad weigh me down, but i know my heart is in the right place, and i can’t let the bad take over my heart.

    btw, you are my art therapist blogger idol!


    Comment by Megan — 1 May 2009 @ 7:22 pm

  3. This post is so timely – Just this morning I decided to wrap up a few WIP’s. While I only completed 2 small projects before I was lured to the computer to browse through fabrics (it really doesn’t take much to pull me away from a project), I did feel like I accomplished a tiny bit today. Thanks for the tips – I’ll be trying a few of them!

    Comment by susan@tickledpaisley — 1 May 2009 @ 8:26 pm

  4. [...] turning*turning wrote about her hexagon paper piecing and about finishing something on her blog. [...]

    Pingback by Sew,Mama,Sew! Blog » » Featured Creativity, Forum Links & more... — 8 July 2009 @ 5:06 pm

  5. Interesting post, thanks! Usually I live by the rule “Better finished than perfect” and find that very helpful when I doubt my own skills. :)

    I am in general enthusiastic about all of my projects from start to finish. My problem is that I make things too big and complex as I don’t enjoy making simple quilts, I want to challenge myself in everything. And of course all these projects take a very long time to finish and I run into new things to challenge myself with all the time.
    Today I think I have about five or six beautiful UFOs (and a lot of small ones) and the creativity is flowing so I can’t keep up with anything.

    Not the worst problem in world, I’m the first to admit that, but it still leads to a sewing room full of UFOs. :)

    Comment by Anna, Sweden — 8 July 2009 @ 11:51 pm

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