What are my WIPs telling me?

Elliot and Clementine are back to school as of yesterday. Woooooohoo. I crave the beginning of school not because I want to see less of my kiddos, but because I love the feeling of turning over a new leaf (I do miss them, but honestly I think the structure of the school schedule is good for all of us after the many many weeks of vacation). The start of the school year is a chance for a new start. Forget New Year’s. A set of resolutions in the dead of winter when you’re still full from Christmas cookies. Who came up with that dumb idea? September is the time for new beginnings, I say!!! Even if I am at the same time sentimental about the end of summer.


I knew I would have a few days this summer when all three of my children would miraculously end up in camps or daycare at the same time when I would have a chance to work, and my goal for the summer was mainly to work on finishing up a long list of my unfinished projects. My assistant Tashina finished college and moved away at the end of July (waaah!!!), and Karen, the other person who works with me in Ann Arbor was home with her daughter for the summer, so it was a fine chance to work by myself for a bit. Sadly, that list of things to finish seems only to have grown. I think I just completely lack the ability to hunker down and focus on anything anymore. At any rate, I managed to take a few pictures of the WIPs (works in progress) I have lingering on my sewing table that are still taunting me as this school year begins. I was thinking that maybe if I had them visually in one place, I would be motivated to finish them, but…


What really is the point of trying to cajole myself into finishing things I’m dragging my heels on? I don’t like to waste time or fabric, so that part of me hates to just give up on something, even if it goes to the thrift store so someone else can repurpose it. But from an artistic standpoint I feel like I should intuit some meaning from the things that cause the most serious procrastination. If I’m not passionate about it then should I even be wasting time on it at all? Maybe I should just move on to the things I really truly want to do. I always liked Nancy Pearl’s approach to books: read the first 50 pages and if you’re not hooked, walk away. And that Magic Art of Tidying Up lady has a similar philosophy: rid yourself of the things in your home that don’t make you happy, seriously just throw it all away. That axe-it-all attitude is awfully appealing to me, as a philosophy for life in general as well as around my house (of course I’m only about half way through that book so the question of what happens if it doesn’t make me happy but I need it anyway, like my toothbrush or the toilet plunger? hasn’t been covered yet, hopefully she will address that because that’s my biggest question so far). When you’re a creative person, the non-passion-inducing projects are things like “why did I just lose an entire afternoon rooting around Quickbooks because it won’t freaking sync with my Paypal properly #?@!?!” Unfortunately, it can’t all be fondling fabrics and sewing the beautiful things. I can’t toss stupid dum dum Quickbooks out the window. Much as I might like to. But I could definitely be better about tossing away sewing projects that induce malaise.


Moving on. I have some fun ideas planned for this new season, but it’s like a suspense novel over here, even I have no idea which ones if any will come to fruition. I’m keenly aware that even with Hugo in daycare two days a week, my life as a mother of three will always be somewhat of a hindrance to professional progress. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not whining, I choose it, and love it, it just is what it is. I’m just saying, it’s still fair for me to feel mildly jealous of the sewing bloggers who prolifically post lined jackets and trendy rayon jumpsuits betwixt fun updates on their latest pair of handmade Ginger Jeans. Meanwhile, I’ll be dutifully plugging away at my humble pile of WIPs. Maybe you can guess what some of them will become? And what do you think, is it better to power through and finish the things you start on principle, or just pursue the projects you love?

32 thoughts on “What are my WIPs telling me?

  1. I tend to toss them aside for a bit until I’m out of fabric for other projects and then come back to them. I don’t have a ton if fabric on hand, so it doesn’t usually take to long!

  2. I am often terrible at finishing things (please see the 2 dresses I cut out last fall for my daughter that remain beside my sewing table and will never fit her now!). Sometimes I need a push to finish things I really want to finish, but then there are those other projects… they hang around and frustrate me when I see them peeking out from the pile. Those I would probably be better of without, but the “waste” is hard. I follow a few quilting blogs and one recently had a link up for anyone to post unwanted WIPs in hopes of finding a home for them to be finished. It’s obviously tougher to do that with clothing, but sometimes knowing it’s going to someone who would finish it or repurpose it helps. Good luck!

    • That’s funny you mention putting it up for someone else to finish, because as reading this post I began thinking maybe Rae was going to do that. I’m thinking there would be more than a few people interested! 🙂

  3. I usually feel I have to finish what I start, but sometimes my projects get interrupted and it is hard to get back to them. So when they start to pile up, I force myself to go through and finish them before I allow myself to do something new. Usually, I start with whatever would be fastest to finish first then go from there. Right now I have a bunch of WIPs waiting for me, but I have a few projects that have to be done first and it is driving me crazy.

  4. I usually finish what I start. I mean, there’s a reason you started them, right? It’s not always easy and I often take long breaks from things because deadlines pop up and I don’t have the longest attention span. And sometimes powering through a project I’ve lost interest in gives me a nice sense of accomplishment. Again, I started them for a reason so I’m usually happy with the end result.

    The nice thing about half-finished projects… they’re already half done! You’re not starting from scratch so they won’t take too long. 🙂

  5. Oh, my pile is huge!!!! But sometimes when my girls are in daycare and I’m in a CLEANING mode then I grap my projects and finish some and toss some. And the releaving feeling of having it done is fabulous!!!

  6. I try power through especially if it’s not a massive project. Often making myself ‘just get it done’ helps me like the project again. That said, I have given away a few unfinished things that had been lying around for way too long and were squelching my desire to create.

  7. I just finished my first pair of Ginger Jeans and I’m about to start a lined jacket… Hmmm… It is really hard for me to get motivated to finish a project if I get interrupted from it for longer than a few days. Usually I try to power through and finish before I let myself start something new BUT recently (after reading half of the tidying up book but never finishing because it had to go back to the library) I did toss a bunch of unfinished stuff that I just knew I was never going to fix/finish. It really felt good to do it.

    • Hah I wrote this post before I saw your Ginger jeans heee!!! But that is why you are a sewing superstar, Teri, I seriously am amazed at your productivity, especially with your bebe!!! 👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼👍🏼

  8. Sometimes I repurpose projects. Like turning an unfinished top or pair of pants into bias tape. That doesn’t take too long and I always use it. But, quickly finishing a project and passing them on through Goodwill is great. Some people depend on donations, so your work is still getting out into the world in a useful way. The main thing is that you haven’t wasted anything. Also, try to hire a new assistant that is a whiz on computer hook ups.

  9. the good thing about having no sewing room or space aside from your ironing board is that there’s no place to pile up wip’s. Hahaha. The idea of ever having the time or brainpower to sew jeans for myself with three kids underfoot is like the most hilarious shit ever. I’m glad some women get to spend time plugging away at intricate projects. Right now I can barely deal with making a grocery list.

      • haha SO TRUE. Tara you totally crack me up.

        And grocery list? I do the online order slash curbside pickup w/ our grocery store and it saves our list week to week. Game changer.

  10. I am right there with you. I hate having WIPs. Usually I am a monogamous seamstress but I have a partially completed dress from last fall still on a table in my sewing room. I really need to finish it because it will be so cute, and I cut it out of lovely corduroy, and it will still fit my daughter. But I’m sick of it by now. I have four kids and there are no Ginger Jeans in my near future either.

    • ok. this concept of “monogamous seamstress” is fascinating to me. Do you just have a huge amount of self control so that when you are in one project you discipline yourself never to start another thing? How do you do that?

      • Ha ha, no, it is definitely not a matter of self control. I’m motivated to sew by the end result and I get super frustrated if I never get there. My hatred for wasting time and fabric is greater than my desire to sew all the things. And also (and this is really dumb, I know), I find the tasks of switching out needles and changing the thread/winding bobbins to be ultra annoying. So seeing a project through to the end keeps those (admittedly very fast to accomplish) tasks to a minimum. Weird, I know.

  11. I hear ya, I hear ya, I hear ya.
    I feel like this so often…that everyone is doing ten things, while I’m doing one. And I’m sure I’ve made people feel like that at times too. But it’s like you said, we chose this and we’re happy with it. It just sounds nice to have 5 extra hours in each day while the rest of the world sleeps 🙂
    Good luck with everything!

    • yes soooo true!!!!

      I don’t know about you but I definitely feel like the third child has completely slowed me down in a way that the second somehow did not. Not sure, I just feel like at the end of the day i’m so exhausted there’s no way I could stay up past midnight working anymore.

  12. I’m right there with ya! Awhile back you had mentioned that you often follow your passion about taking on a new project, even while in the middle of one. I find I do this as well (I almost always follow my passion for a sewing project!) and sometimes it drives me crazy seeing it unfinished on my table as I’m running one of my kids to the potty or stopping them from pulling some doll apart in a tug o war. It feels so good to also finish some of those projects too!

    I’m a Librarian, and I completely support putting a boring book down. There are too many amazing books out there to be read!

  13. This is my DAILY question, dude. I have a BASKET of WIPs that have been awaiting my attention for….a shameful period of time. And worse: lists and lists and lists of ideas that I haven’t gotten to yet. And I wonder if the reason I haven’t gotten to them is because I don’t love them enough? But that’s a hurtful thought–like, I feel sad about not having that stuffed animal on the bed because I don’t want to hurt it’s feelings? Which is stupid–my unfinished sewing projects aren’t sad because I haven’t made them. Which means it probably has more to do with my perfectionism and pride than about the actual project.

    This is a lot of thinking for so early in the morning, homie. I might go have a coffee and finish the project I started yesterday which is NOT the project I put on my schedule, but I just wanted to make this one more and now I’m almost done…. Wait….I may have just made my point.

  14. Well, I have all kinds of reasons for why I finish projects. The best reason is that I LOVE the project and can’t wait to wear/use it. Other reasons are: 1. it will teach me a new sewing skill, so I am adding to my sewing experience. 2. Someone else wants it and I will enjoy their happiness. 3. It will be DONE (I love done!). 4. It’s a creative challenge to see if I can alter it somehow as I go along so that I love it.

    However, if none of these reasons fits, then I donate it to the creative reuse store. These places are genius! They are like a thrift store of crafting supplies – like the thrift equivalent of AC Moore. In my mind, this is a happy ending for my WIPs that I can’t deal with.

  15. Dude, as they make British teachers tatoo on their arms: process not product! Your WIPs are telling you, or rolling their eyes and refusing to tell you why if they’re as annoying as mine, that you picked the project by the garment you wanted, not the sewing you wanted to spend your time doing. You have so much goal oriented sewing for work, so maybe for fun it needs to be process based. I do, for example, something new when I need to learn, something fast and TNT when I need an achievement in my hands by the end of th session, something show stopping when my friends will see and give all the right reactions and something labored and slow when I need a change from my insane therapeutic hand made fast fashion fixes. It’s all a tonic for something. The actual garments are less important to me than the sewing. After all, I love them and appreciate them, but I don’t need them, like none of us are walking around naked without them. For me the biggest upgrade isn’t in my wardrobe, it’s in spending my time in a creative process that I direct and grow from. Process not product. You can always shelve them for a bit, they don’t own you. I store my WIPs with a note in what’s left to do and an approximate time to finish. Sometimes I’ll fish in the WIPs and see that an evening will finish a dress and love it and do it. In all, I try to go easy on myself. We are all nice and cool folks, mostly doing our homework on time and messing up about the right amount of stuff in life. WIP guilt? Wouldn’t bother myself x

  16. Hi Rae
    sorry that I talk something off topic.
    I love how you choose all the fabric for your projects. May I ask what is the flower fabric name of the moon pants that you were working on? Thank you

    • Hi Ronnie,

      If you’re asking about the green floral pants at the top of the post, that’s the “Meadow” line by Leah Duncan for Art Gallery fabrics. Hope you can still find it!!! 🙂

  17. oh girl…you are speaking my language!
    right now it is finish one from the wip pile and make two (or four!) new ones. not efficient whatsoever!

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