when to abandon, finish, or begin again

How do you know when to abandon a piece? Or, if the decision is to spare an unliked work, how do you go about finding the will to finish it?



Shooting this little quilt out of focus and cock-eyed accurately captures my lack of affection for it. Initially, I set out to ‘improve’ it by continuing to applique scraps — applying some sheers for additional interest and a variety of teeny chips of geometric prints to suggest more windows. However, the backing fabric is a polished cotton (and I suspect designed for outdoor use) and it became evil to try and stitch through.

So! I cut it up.


more interesting already

Cutting up a quilt otherwise designated for the garbage doesn’t take much nerve, particularly when you haven’t spent all that much time on it the first place. Now I am committed to finishing it and will use one of the Berninas to do so (sparing the thumbs is generally a good practice!)

So — NOTE TO SELF — prior to abandoning a piece, you can:

One – cut it up, rearrange it (if necessary or fun, cut up TWO quilts and mix and match). (DONE)

Two – Using a zig-zag stitch, butt edges together and unite them. (DONE)

Three — Add additional scraps to surface, in my case more rooves, windows, and a red hot sun.  (IN PROGRESS).

Four – bind or not. I’m a lot less compulsive about the need for a traditional binding.

Who knows? Maybe this little Summer Village will usher in a whole slew of Finished Things.

For the first time EVER I am viewing the prospect of a period in which I limit myself to the task of finishing in-progress pieces as something appealing — as a source of freedom, even.

Funny isn’t it? How something that for years (finishing, finishing and focusing on finishing) has seemed nothing but an exercise in the SuperEgo — dull, lacking in spark, with an oppressive need for semi-accuracy — can suddenly carry a whiff of delight?

Perhaps this is a testament to the weight of things undone.

And perhaps this new stance on finishing is an indicator of just how toxic the process of selling your work can be. In most of the previous ten years, finishing a piece was synonymous with readying it for sale. That’s a big “UGH” all on its own, and it must have carried a large enough spread of contamination to pollute the process of finishing.

marcias quilt

actually, many quilts were completed to give away as gifts!


Just wondering. Didn’t mean to sound SO incredibly down on selling.

holly fair booth

Holly Fair, Cambridge, Mass. — one of the very first craft fairs I did

Can you imagine a whole wall of Global Warming quilts (mostly pieced already) backed and quilted and edges finished in some manner?! The Witness quilts (two of them, I think) — bound and complete? The Middle Passage quilts resolved (remember? I dunked two of them into the indigo vat, which kind of stopped me short) — bound and quilted as well?!! A couple of baby blankets, quilted and bound, if only to donate them to Children’s Hospital (because there are some – uh-oh – bumps that I won’t be able to quilt out).

adding tornadoes and rain to Global Warming WIP

adding tornadoes and rain to Global Warming WIP

First step I suppose would be to make a list.  Isn’t that often the First Step? I’m willing to wager that I have more than 25 quilts in progress.

We shall see. We shall see.

On another note — Hope everyone had a Happy Father’s Day!!

We did. First, with a visit to my sister in Salem (we ate hot dogs next to her alley-sidewalk garden) and then with a meal at our kitchen table together (a rarity these days). K. wasn’t even supposed to back from China yet, but his meetings wrapped up early. So being altogether was treat enough, but then C. brought dinner from the supermarket where he works and I made Fallen Chocolate Cakes (only 3 Tbs of flour!) which we ate with vanilla ice cream, and in my case, a fair amount of moaning. D. gave his father one of his best B&W prints of the mountains that he photographed (on film!) during our recent trip to Arizona.

print and pinhead

print and pinhead

9 thoughts on “when to abandon, finish, or begin again

  1. Michelle in NYC

    You are a pro so you can’t help but wrestle with all these decisions, Makes sense. I wouldn’t fret over it. so. When you lighten up, it’s easier to let go I think…and it’s a thoughtful post, and an impressive output. Breathe.

  2. Mo Crow

    interesting to watch what falls of our hands, some things fly, some don’t & there is a great satisfaction in ripping up a drawing that doesn’t work paper or in your case cutting up a piece of cloth, always keeping in mind that it’s best not to leave the dull things behind just in there is no tomorrow!

  3. Mo Crow

    PS oops! a few typos …
    above is meant to read –
    ripping up a drawing that doesn’t work on paper
    just in case there is no tomorrow

  4. deedeemallon

    Hi Mo – the idea that time is finite in every life could really be a good motivator…

  5. deedeemallon

    Karoda – yes, the weight of undone things, unsaid things, things left ’til tomorrow… books not yet read. Why add to that quilts that could be finished?!

  6. deedeemallon

    Lucie – it was either throw the quilt out of do something radical, so actually, there was very little bravery involved!

  7. deedeemallon

    Michelle – breathe. Indeed. Next post I take your comment forward. Such a necessary reminder!


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