WIP, UFO or working on your PhD?

Quilters seem to have their own lingo. Take for example the acronyms mentioned above. WIP in quilt terms means Work In Progress. Whereas UFO is stretching it a bit to mean UnFinished Object. Here’s an interesting one, PIGS = Projects In Grocery Sacks. But I think my favorite one is PhD – Projects Half Done.  Doesn’t that sound SEW smart!

No matter what you call them, if you are like the majority of quilters I know you probably have a project or two that is in some sort of process of being finished.

Starting The New Year Off Right – Quilting With Friends!

I belong to the Island Quilters Guild in Galveston and one thing that I enjoy about this wonderful group of quilters is gathering with them once a month for our Sew-ins.  A Sew-In differs by definition from a  Quilt Retreat. Generally, retreats are overnight adventures whereas a sew in is just a day event or multiple day event as the case may be. Either way there’s lots of sewing and chattering going on as quilters bring whatever project they are working on to the designated facility and work on their projects together. Sewing is always better with friends!


Have Sewing Projects Will Travel

In eager anticipation of this month’s sew in I packed up my belongings, picked out two WIP,  and loaded up the car to head south about 13 miles… about halfway there I realized that I hadn’t packed my thread…SIGH!!!  So back to the studio!

Don’t Forget The Thread

So to avoid matters such as this I have now created my ultimate checklist for Sew Ins and Quilt Retreats. You can download a copy here and print for your use. Never again will I waste precious sewing time due to a forgotten item!

The Quilt Rambler’s Sew In/Retreat Checklist


Nothing Like The Hum of a Sewing Machine

Our weekend for January was a little cold so there weren’t as many in attendance as usual – but our hearts were warmed as we laughed and sewed together. We schedule two days together a month for our sew-ins at a local recreation center, a Friday and a Saturday,  where we have the freedom  to come and go during the course of those two days. Some can only attend a few hours, some are morning folks, some are afternoon folks. Most bring their sewing machine, but on occasion someone will bring handwork, or occasionally someone will just drop by for lunch to visit. Have I mentioned that this is a friendly bunch?

I generally attend both days but this month I was able to attend Saturday only…I thought I’d walk you around the room and show off some of the fun things my quilting friends were working on this weekend.

This is Jane. Her professional background is in embroidery. One of her goals has been to challenge herself in completing an embroidered whole cloth. She brought her PhD to share with the group.

The color of the dupioni silk is so rich and yummy! Jane was explaining that the challenge of this project is lining up the individual designs…if you look closely you will see that this WIP is comprised of rectangle blocks set expertly together to be totally seamless.  Jane’s professionalism shines!

Jane’s Whole Cloth

Jane is also working on a Millefiori quilt and leading a group of like minded quilters in working through this challenging english paper piecing project. I have to admire her dedication to detail, not to mention all the handwork! Each sew-in Jane manages to add a little more to this fabulous piece. I will do my best to keep you updated on her progress.



Moving around the room lets take a look at what Marilyn is working on this weekend..

Marilyn’s Handiwork

Marilyn is our guild president this year.  It’s always interesting to see what a she is working on – especially certain times of the year as Marilyn makes these “out of this world” costumes and pageant dresses. She must have the patience of Job! This weekend she was working on beading and sequence for a bodice of a gown – if I remember correctly this will be for an upcoming Mardi Gras outfit. Amazing….all I have to say is Handwork Rocks Girlfriend!


Debbie knits

This is Debbie, our past guild president. Debbie is best known for her vibrant colorful quilts – you should have been there at the last guild auction when her bags of quilting scraps were well fought over! This weekend Debbie was like me, she didn’t have the luxury of being there both days…she has the privilege of keeping her grandchildren every now and then (who, by the way, all have the cutest quilts made by Debbie)….all that to say, she is so committed to the fellowship of our little group that  even knowing she only had a short while to be with us she made a point to join us and brought a more portable project this time! We were all excited when she walked in around lunchtime to join our happy little band of quilters. I didn’t know Debbie knitted…can’t wait to see the finished project! Maybe next sew in or guild meeting she will bring it for “show and tell.”

This is Katy, also known as a  smokin’ needle. Which by my definition is someone who knows how to put the peddle to the metal and keep that machine hummin’ at lightening speed. Katy is one of those gals who has dozens of UFO’s and manages to finish several quilts whenever we are together. I’ve been on retreats and sew ins with her in the past where she finished up a top and managed to machine quilt it and bind it all in one setting. Did I mention that she’s a smokin’ needle? On this particular morning Katy was working on a row of flying geese  and by lunchtime Katy had this cute little baby quilt sewn together ready to add the baby’s name on the bottom border! Did I mention that she was a smokin’ needle – yep, she’s fast…but better than that, she’s good at what she does!

As someone who “makes a living” in the quilt industry I do my best to take “time off” to work on my own personal projects – this is why I appreciate our guild for hosting these sew ins and I do my best to attend as many as possible.

Karen’s PhD

Last July we had our annual 3 day Island Quilters Guild Sew In. THREE DAYS! I make this a high priority on my calendar to attend each year bringing as many UFO’s, PIGS, WIP, and PhD’s as possible. Last year I actually brought something new to work on the last day of the event. I had recently been cleaning out an area of my studio and found a ruler

and book by Lazy Girl Designs

I made this little top in one day from a  package of 2.5″ inch strips. And then it became a WISP = Work In Slow Process…

Until the January Sew- In that is! By lunchtime I  had added borders and my UFO became a TGIF = Thank Goodness Its Finished.

Karen’s UFO became a TGIF


Pieced backing

Actually it has become what I fondly call a Quilt in Waiting…as in it is a pieced top waiting to be quilted – and then it’s “Finished is Good.”  I ended up with a few pieced blocks that didn’t make it into the quilt top so decided to go ahead and piece them into the backing. Now it’s really ready for the longarm! Hum…wonder how long it will take to work into The Quilt Rambler rotation? Grin. “A cobbler’s kids have no shoes.”

We had a few more join us after lunch….so to continue with the show and share…

This is Pam, she’s a fiber artist/art quilter and recently new to our Galveston guild and to the island itself. She’s not a stranger to quilting or being known among the national quilting scene (she is friends with lots of nationally known quilters.) Pam was working on a little project for the Houston chapter of SAQA – Studio Art Quilt Associates. If I understood her correctly this is a piece that she will be teaching at an upcoming meeting with that guild.  And look!  she did all the handwork, embellishments, quilting and binding at sew in. Yep! Finished is good!

Did I mention that  Katy’s a smokin’ needle? She started another WIP, this time a paper piecing project…I believe she said this was going to be part of a placemat set.  I love the colors – so tropical on such a cold winter’s day.

Sometimes in the excitement of making quilts we lose track of some of the ones that just need to be finished. That’s what’s so wonderful about sew-ins! I have lined up all my UFO’s in a priority order and plan on working through as many as possible this year. Some date back to 1995!

Dena joined us after lunch. She was working on a very old project….seems this was one of her first quilts, part of a sampler class she took years ago at the community college. She was hand-quilting it and is almost finished…If you look closely you can see where she embroidered “Dena’s first quilt 1992 -20__” she said as soon as she finishes she will fill in the blank with the finished year. Talk about a major accomplishment!  Hum…is it considered Vintage or Antique if something is over 25 years old? Just kidding Dena – I think it is beautiful and a great memorial to your many successful years of quilting – looks like you passed your college class and have become a world-class quilter!

Dena’s almost finished quilt

Janielle is another quilter/knitter of the group.  This weekend she was working on finishing up several UFO’s. This first quilt top was pieced from a book called Jelly Roll Jambalaya Quilts 

I’m typically not a “brown” person (preferring bright jewel tones) but I do love batiks and this pattern just spoke to me.  Janielle was layering it to machine quilt and made good progress. She mentioned that this would be a charity quilt.  Through the generosity of our members our guild provides many quilts each year to various local charities.

Janielle’s Charity Quilt

Janielle brought blocks from another project also from the Jelly Roll Jambalaya Quilt book. (I just ordered my copy!)  It wasn’t long before she had these together in a quilt top.


Janielle’s blocks turned quilt top

Janielle did say that she is going to consider adding a border to this top. Her thoughts “some quilts just need a border to frame them in and I think this is one of them.”

Karen’s Second UFO

Not to be accused of being idle, I started on my second WIP after lunch. This is a top I pieced at a retreat last February called Stereo by Jaybird Quilts.

The pattern doesn’t call for a border but I wasn’t as pleased with my color choices as the original pattern so I thought it might look more contained if it had a border….

What do you think?

Karen’s 2nd UFO turned TGIF

All too soon it was time for me to call it a day. The event wasn’t “over” but my time was limited. Sigh. I was so pleased to finish two PhD’s in one setting – that sounds sew smart doesn’t it?

Before I left I noticed Janielle pulled out another WIP, a beautiful Hunter’s Star that I believe she said Pam was quick to call “Dibs” when Janielle said she was probably going to give this one away… Time will tell.

Thanks for joining me for the ramble. I have a nice group of quilting friends from the island – I’m sure you will see more of their beautiful creations as time goes by.

Don’t forget to download your copy of the The Quilt Rambler’s Sew In/Retreat Checklist

Happy Sewing!

This is Karen, The Quilt Rambler, telling your story one quilt at a time!

Please leave a comment below as we’d love to hear from you!



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