False Starts and Lost Causes

Every once in a while I start a quilt that doesn’t go anywhere. It happens for a couple of reasons.

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The most common problem is that I just don’t enjoy making the blocks or units or whatever is involved. I have enough of these False Starts that I could almost build a guild program around the idea.

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I like the title: “False Starts and Lost Causes.” But I have to wonder how many people would come to a guild meeting if this was the topic. Would you be there? I’m just weird enough that I probably would be.

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My most recent False Start

Here is my most recent False Start. It looks better here than it does in person. It’s ugly.

I had seen an amazing collection of antique quilts at a recent Quilt History Day sponsored by Nebraska State Quilt Guild in conjunction with their summer event called QuiltNebraska.

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Antique Hourglass quilt, owned by Linda Pumphrey

This is the piece that led me to believe a bed-size quilt made of scrappy hourglass units would be wonderful. I’d make it Bonnie Hunter-style with lots of uglies and fabric-I-want-to-be-gone-already. But somehow I’m not enjoying the process, and I’m really not enjoying the results so far.

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Another False Start from early in 2013

Here’s another false start from last winter (above). I was developing a class called Scrap Quilts 1.5, in which all the quilts would be made from 1.5″ strips.

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Antique quilt seen on Quilting with the Past

This is the quilt that inspired my False Start (above). I saw it on a blog called Quilting with the Past. I think it’s really an amazing piece. I took mine in a different direction by using “low volume” fabrics—that’s what it’s called now when the fabrics are mostly lights or have mostly light backgrounds.

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Tonya Ricucci’s Lego quilt

But I was miserable during the piecing. It held no interest for me, and while I thought it looked okay, the results were not as smashing as I had hoped. I quit while it was small and called it good. The quilt above is another version, this one by Tonya Ricucci at Lazy Gal Quilting. Again, smashing. Mine, not.


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Another of my own False Starts

These are crazy-patch blocks I made with Jo Morton-type fabric leftovers. Just didn’t trip my trigger.

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I even made some bigger ones to see if that would help. I thought they were even worse.


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Can’t even remember what these were for.

And here’s a whole pile of half-square triangles that were abandoned because of the same problem. My vision just didn’t materialize. It’s been so long now I can’t remember what my vision was.

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Someone else’s Lost Cause

What’s even worse than having my own False Starts is that when the Lost Causes of other quilters show up at guild sales, I can’t leave them behind. In the spring I bought this batch of Halloween blocks for $8 at a guild meeting. I love them! I don’t think these were a False Start, not by any stretch. I’m guessing the quilter just lost interest. So maybe Lost Cause would be a better fit.

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What was I thinking?

I adopted these hexagon flowers, too, from a different quilter in a different guild. It’s like these projects follow me home. There are dozens more hexagon flowers in a plastic bag, too. What was I thinking?

What’s really interesting to me is that even when I know I’m not going any further with something I started, when I know there is no hope and no desire to finish, I have gotten rid of only a few of them. I hang on for dear life. And from what I see at the guilds’ garage sales, other quilters do the same.

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What are your thoughts? Do you have False Starts and Lost Causes? What do you do with them? Have you ever adopted them from someone else? I’d love to know. Please leave a comment.



About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email: editor@quiltmaker.com.
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