Why can't I finish this quilt?!

What is it about an almost finished quilt that makes us pause and want to start something new?

It can't be boredom.
It can't be deadlines of other projects.
It most certainly can't be the Fear of Saying Goodbye ... or can it?

I don't know a single quilter that has no WIPs (Works in Progress) or UFOs (Unfinished Objects).  Actually, I know many that have piles and piles of them.  I know it isn't just me that suffers from whatever it is that stops us from finishing these projects.

There is the occasional one that just isn't appealing anymore.  The "what was I thinking" quilt top.
Then there is the mistake or method we just can't get right.  Too much frustration to keep going.

But, there is also the one we love too much.  We all have our weak points when it comes to the skills needed to make a quilt start to finish.  For some it is the start of the design - they are the pattern followers.  For others it is the fabric matching - the kit buyers. The piecing perfectionists have multiple, sharp seam rippers at the ready.  And others (like myself) need quilting practice. (and sandwiching practice too).  I am not "terrible" at it, but I want to be so much more. 

I am one of those quilters that likes to do it all myself start to finish.  Besides, I don't really have the funds to hire out a long-armer anyways.  That is probably why I have so many loved quilt tops in a tote setting off to the side. 

Every once in awhile I will pull them out, caress the fabrics and look at the beautiful fabrics and patterns, then fold them up and put them away, not quite ready to quilt them yet.  I want so badly to have the time to practice my quilting, but I just don't get around to it enough.  Not for the level of quilting I want on the beautiful tops I have set aside.  I want to learn to use a long-arm machine.  I would LOVE to be able to practice on one during my own time, but that just isn't the way it works.  Sigh.....

For you out there with your own long-arm machines.  What made you decide to finally make that purchase?  Had you built up your skill before buying one of your own?  How did you KNOW it was what you wanted?

Just a couple of Blocks & Tops I love too much to finish:


  1. I had a huge tidy up over the past few days, and all the lovely UFO projects are together. A long arm machine, even a good second hand one down here is so expensive, so when a very old Gammill on a wooden frame came up for sale, I jumped in. This is how I will find if I can handle the machine, if I like quilting this way, and can I ever be good enough to be really happy with my efforts and finishes. I see other machine quilters of my age, easily managing a long arm,,but they have been doing this for many years.And, I also, have something not quite finished and start another, but variety is a challenge. Can you rent a long arm machine? Or have a friend offer you some time and lessons on hers/his? To rent one, I have to travel over 2 hours, have a lengthy lesson first ( I agree that is a necessary way to start) and then visit again to actually quilt. If I lived closer, this is what I might do to start with.

  2. I feel your pain! I also complete my quilts from start to finish but I don't have a long arm. Have you considered quilting your quilts on your domestic machine? There are a number of methods (quilting over a printed design, free motion all over quilting, stitch in the ditch, etc.). You could experiment and find the method that works best for you. If you are really leary of quilting, practice on a charity quilt...you'll never have to see it again and your skills will be much improved with just one quilt. Good luck getting those poor UFOs completed.

  3. I hired 2 quilts done by longarmers and didn't like the price. Hubby said why don't you get a machine and quilt for others. That was all it took, we started looking for used ones. Got a demo on a big LA, and then I started off small with Juki on a table top frame. That way I could afford it, practice and I was happy for a year and a half. That's when I wanted more throat space and I knew I loved it. I loved it from the first minute I tried frame quilting. I hated doing it on the domestic. So I now have a Nolting Funquilter 17" with stitch regulator. I really recommend you looking into one. They frequently have used ones as people trade up. Call the factory and talk to them. Or you could always book a flight to MN and come play with me!!

  4. It seems like there is a huge bunch of people that buy longarm machines these days. It's almost like buying a really good domestic machine. Everyone has them?! I would love something that I could FMQ with, but I don't exactly have the room. As for WIP's and UFO's. I try really hard to say on top of them from start to finish. My problem is I get the tops done and sandwiched and then they stack up to 5, 6,7 -10 high!

  5. I quilt on my regular machine -- not free motion, just straight line stuff. I'm actually trying out a longarm for the first time later this week at a shop ~45 minutes away that will rent time after you complete a training class. I also heard recently that my local library might be getting a longarm machine which would be AMAZING! So maybe check around to see if those options exist for you?

  6. Those are some gorgeous quilts waiting for you. My advice is to just jump in. You will never be "good enough" if that is what you are waiting for. Your quilt will look beautiful with your quilting, no matter what your skill set. Plus, but starting you will get better.
    I quilted on my domestic machine for 15 years before getting a longarm. I found mine used, so got a good price. I don't have a computer - I didn't want one initially, although I plan to upgrade in the future. I started taking in quilts almost immediately, and now that I am partnering with a shop, I can't keep up with the demand for my services. Even with the great demand, I don't know that I could rely on this income to support my family.

  7. I machine quilted on my domestic machine for about 20 years before I bought my longarm. I was pretty good at it, but I hated basting and I hated wresting the quilt around. I wanted a longarm for a long time but I didn't think I had the space. I considered a mid-arm or sit down, but that wouldn't solve my basting problem and I really wanted to stand - I don't need another thing that has me sitting with my shoulders hunched over. My local shop has a rental program, so I had a day of lessons and then another full day of quilting on my own. They were long days, and after renting I didn't think I wanted one. I was frustrated I couldn't do what I wanted to do, what I could do on my domestic, and was worried it would be a really long learning curve. I decided not to buy one, then I quilted another big quilt on my domestic and decided I was done with that! I wound up buying the Avanti HandiQuilter floor model I had taken my lessons on at the shop, and I got a good deal on it and on the ProStitcher (the computer). I have to say I absolutely love the thing - though it has taken time and practice to get comfortable. I have finished so many quilts, and my skills are already better than they ever were on my domestic. I say try renting one, then look for a demo or used machine. As I said, I have the computer and it is ok - might be more important to me once I get more clients - but I don't think you need one and can certainly upgrade later. I actually wrote a blog post about this and my journey here: http://www.brownpaws.com/2017/11/27/to-long-arm-or-not-to-long-arm-my-answer-to-that-question/

    Good luck!

  8. You have some gorgeous quilts and blocks here. I finally kicked myself in the pants and made myself get into domestic quilting. You honestly can achieve any kind of quilting at the domestic that longarmers can do - it just takes a whole lot longer. I did that for 9 years while I saved up for the specific longarm I wanted to get, debt-free (finally happened last June). [I wanted an APQS Millenium, no computer, not the biggest size, as I mostly do intricate custom work versus pushing lots of customer pantos through.] During that time, I didn't restrict myself from making tops to my heart's content just because I couldn't keep up with the quilting I wanted on them. I let the extras accumulate in a closet, as I knew one day I'd have a longarm and work through them all much faster than with the domestic. I am in that learning curve with the longarm - it takes time to regain the same level of skill I had at the domestic. I'm getting there. Some people, though, find they really don't like the longarm. Before buying one, I would definitely trial them by renting time at shops on different brands and taking lessons there. Try them at quilt shows, etc. Even the less expensive brands comprise a huge investment, so don't buy one without trying them first.

  9. I machine quilted for years on my Bernina and Juki. I make a lot of quilts. . So many in fact that the quilting party was ruining both my machines. That is when i bought mutt sit down long arm Juki. It is easier work now and not putting miles on my new little Juki.I didn't want a stand up long arm now That I had perfected moving the quilt under the machine.

  10. I know exactly where you are coming from Jen and you have some great feedback here. I too struggle with the quilting but I promised myself (again) this is the year I come to terms with doing it on my domestic, in fact it's why I bought my Bernina 770, for the larger throat. I can see progress though, I can now meander with a decent result and I'm improving on pebbles. No it isn't very advanced but it's a start. I do have quilts I sent out years ago but it is so expensive, I could make another quilt with what it cost me, no I'm not kidding! We just have to jump in, first on small stuff, and gradually increase our skill level. One thing is for sure I won't improve just wishing for it.

  11. What lovely quilts waiting for a finish! I quilt mine at home mostly. When they are too large, I hire a longarmer. This year I'm going to do what others have suggested, and learn to longarm by renting time at a local quilt store. I say go for it!

    1. Oh! I loved your post so much I forgot to say thanks for linking to Wednesday Wait Loss.

  12. Sometimes I just wait for the right quilting motif to match the quilt top. I try to keep a balance between finishes and playing with new ideas. Your quilt tops look wonderful, they will make very lovely quilts :)


  13. Really great post! Now I'm wondering why I slow down as I near the end of a quilt. Am I not ready to say goodbye to it? Am I questioning whether it is good enough for the recipient? I have lots of ideas and a large pattern library so it's not because I won't have anything to do once I finish. Your article got me to thinking.


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