On finishing quilts

This is not another post about whether it is better to bind or to face a quilt to get the best finish. It is also not a moan about what a bind it is to stitch the quilt’s edging. Instead it is about those UFOs, WIPs, or PhDs — the bane of every quilter’s life.

It is telling that quilting parlance has devised not one, but three terms for this condition. And why, I wonder, have we chosen to use abbreviations to refer to our unfinished works, as if it is unmentionable or slightly unsavoury. The OED lists “disagreeable”and even “disgusting” and “morally offensive “as meanings of unsavoury, so perhaps it is too strong a word for this context. But it is safe to say that these unfinished items are a source of irritation.

For any non-quilting readers, the codes refer to UnFinished Objects, Works In Progress and Projects Half Done (with apologies to you, Asta, and any other real PhDs who are reading this).

Over the past number of weeks I have been working hard at getting some of my pending quilts (PQs?) finished or, in some cases, closer to being finished. The National Quilt Festival, with its feast of workshops, is a month away and I want to try and clear my cutting table to make space for the works in progress that I know I will bring home. In a previous blog I wrote about my excitement at signing up for workshops with Dorothy Tucker from the UK, and two South Africans, Marlene Turner and Sue Cameron. (See the entry about the Interchange Quilt Festival at https://marissthequilter.wordpress.com/2019/04/05/on-anticipation/)

The smallest works, but also the completely finished ones, are two house quilts. They are called Cornish Houses #1 and Cornish Houses #2 and measure 27 x 23 and 35 x 30 cm each.

Some of you may remember that at the beginning of 2019 I brashly declared my intention to sew a house a weekend. Alas, resolve failed and so I decided to construct a small village and a portrait of a set of semi-detached houses so that I would have small pieces to quilt while sitting on the stoep during the National Arts Festival. The semis were sold.

The next work in progress is the quilt that was born at a workshop on birch tree blocks (thank you Karen) with my local quilting group and which I wrote about earlier this year. (See https://marissthequilter.wordpress.com/2019/03/22/on-quilting-bees/). This has been sandwiched (hence the safety pins) and I started quilting it. Usually the needle leads me as to where to stitch the next row, but this time I was not sure how to continue after I had hand quilted along the central angled lines. So I put it away for the time being. This is quite a big piece and will measure about 200 x 120 cm when it is finished.

Since Doortjie Gersbach’s recent workshop on folding techniques and hand stitching, I have been enjoying stitching a block or two of an evening of the mermaid’s purse shapee. There are now nearly enough for a table runner and I intend to finish it this weekend when my oldest friend (who is the same age as I am and therefore not that old) comes to visit. We will catch up and I will stitch as we chat. Note the gap in the photograph below: that will be filled up with a nine patch of the smallest size block. Apologies for the bad lighting of the photograph — I did not want to move the blocks from the table and and upset the painstaking order.

And last, but not least, there is the quilt top, finished this week, of the stars that I made at Doortjie’s workshop a year ago. I cheated a bit in that I did not make all seven of the star designs she gave us. When I pinned up the stars that I had completed, I decided that I needed one more large star to balance things and ended up making another Ohio star rather than starting from scratch with the templates for a new star. I am looking forward to quilting this one. It will probably jump the queue while I ponder on how to stitch the birch tree, indigo quilt above.


It is a windy afternoon and so conditions were not ideal in the “photograph studio”, which is the outside patio. The bigger quilts were pinned to my polystyrene pinboard, and the wind kept blowing it over. At least the light was okay on this overcast day, but the photograph session was quite a challenge. Here’s evidence of the measures I resorted to.

19 thoughts on “On finishing quilts

  1. Dear M, it is not for me to advise you on hand stitching as you so rightly know…but what I DO know is that you will accomplish the task with creativity and dexterity


  2. Pending Quilts…that’s a good one! Right now, I have four quilts pending. I like working a bit on each one on different days. It does play havoc with my room set up, but it keeps me going. It seems to give me a new mind set when I stop working on one quilt, and then return to it. Your quilts are beautiful. The Mermaids Purse really caught my eye. Thanks for sharing your art.


  3. Impressive quilts Mariss😍. Sterkte as you craft them all to completion. Love the tiny Japanese folded blocks amongst the larger ones- that takes skill!
    And the PS with the broom🧹?! Your mode of transport while you stitch magic🧡🌠!!


  4. As a quilting beginner (QB) with a one and only work, which is in progress (WIP) I am astonished to find the world of quilting so involved. Aunt Patricia (Thorne), long time quilter (LTQ) taught me some of the mysteries including the secret of safety pins!

    Mariss from you I am happy to read more about quilting and passion, dedication and amusing musings, blogging and photographic props of broomsticks and polystyrene!


  5. Heehee! I admire your creative solution to the problems posed by photographing outside on a breezy day! I love your Cornish houses too… I’m not surprised someone snapped up the semis already. And finally, thanks to your guide to quilting lingo, I’ve learned that I’m in possession of multiple (knitted) PhDs. My parents are going to be so proud. πŸ˜‚


  6. Is the broom part of the piece’s composition? πŸ˜‰
    I’ve had some humorous challenges trying to photographs quilts when it is windy. I remember hanging a quite on a clothesline and then patient waiting between wind gusts to snap a photo until I got the right photo, It was if I was playing a game with nature. Wonderful pieces in this post.


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