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Unfinished Craft Projects and How to Finish Them

Updated on July 24, 2014

Ever Felt Like You're Snowed Under with Unfinished Work?

Everyone has skeletons in their closet.

Unfortunately there isn't room for skeletons in my closet because there are too many unfinished textiles projects stuffed in there.

Gah! I am sick of being someone who doesn't finish things and just creates more clutter!

I originally made this page to catalogue all my unfinished projects together - unfortunately I had so many unfinished projects I had to make a whole new page to put them on!

Why Worry About Finishing Things?

I hear you. Life is too short to worry about finishing every little thing that you start. Life in the moment! Why Worry?

I felt like that - if I'm not enjoying something then why waste my time on it? I just needed to move onto the next thing and I'd be happy again.

But I've now got to the point where I have so many unfinished pieces that it's ridiculous.

I have hundreds of new ideas racing around my head at once and I get carried away for a few days, start a piece of work and then when I'm halfway through another idea will capture my imagination.

It's driving me crazy!

I used to love clutter. I loved hanging out in a studio space that was completely covered. I loved piles of books and shelves stuffed to over-capacity.

I would collect all sorts of fabric and hoard beads and buttons.

I'd buy hundreds of DVDs and watched them whilst I sewed.

And then one day I realised that I didn't want to live like that. I didn't want to have to keep moving piles and piles of clutter around my home in order to find somewhere to sit down.

At the moment I'm in a transitioning phase where I'm trying to clear my home.

I'm reading books I've never read and passing them on to others, I'm sending excess clothes to the charity shops. I'm reducing clutter in the kitchen cabinets. I'm giving fabric I'll never use to friends who will.

The next thing I have to sort out is the enormous amount of unfinished projects - because these take up so much room. And I can't part with them unfinished because I think they'll just get thrown away - what use is a half-finished piece of work?

I don't want to be someone who doesn't see their ideas through.

I want to be someone who can achieve amazing things over and over again.

So that's why this particular challenge is important to me!

Above: One suitcase completely stuffed with unfinished projects.

Catalogue the Unfinished Projects

To know the extent of your crafty problem you need to catalogue every piece of work that you have that's unfinished.

I'm using this lens to collate all of my unfinished problems so that I can begin to finish them!

If you don't keep a record of everything you have that needs work then you might end up 20 years down the line pulling a half-finished treasure out of a suitcase and finding moths have eaten it!

Or it's gone mouldy.

Or mice are nesting in it.

I'm all about creating space in my home at the moment and banishing clutter. I don't want to keep adding and adding to the useless boxes, suitcases, drawers and ottomans of textiles pieces. I want to clear those textiles pieces - give them away or sell them or make them into gifts or auction them for charity.

First I really need to know what's in those boxes.

I decided to work methodically.

I collected together the current pieces I'm working on and made sure I had those noted down with details about what needed to be done with them.

I then hunted around the piles and stacks in my studio space.

I knew I had a lot of unfinished textiles work hidden away in the bedroom but I made sure that I tackled one room at a time.

I didn't want to overwhelm myself and I didn't want the whole house to look like a tip all at once!

Deal with one box at a time and make sure you keep a record of what is where so that once you've catalogued a piece you can find it again easily.

A Sampling if Some of My Many Unfinished Projects

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Patchy Blanket.Coiled Vessel.Detail of wrap-around skirt.Detail of a Furoshiki Cloth.Detail of a Frida Kahlo inspired background.
Patchy Blanket.
Patchy Blanket.
Coiled Vessel.
Coiled Vessel.
Detail of wrap-around skirt.
Detail of wrap-around skirt.
Detail of a Furoshiki Cloth.
Detail of a Furoshiki Cloth.
Detail of a Frida Kahlo inspired background.
Detail of a Frida Kahlo inspired background.

When you catalogue a piece you'll want to:

1. Photograph it.

2. Make a note of what it needs doing to it to get it finished.

3. Write down any immediate thoughts you have about what you might do with it when it's finished.

4. Consider whether it is worth your precious time and life to finish it.

5. If it's not worth your time to finish something then consider what else you could do with it.

6. Give it a priority number (these can change and shouldn't be set in stone - depending on how organised you are. Then again, if you're that organised I bet you don't have a problem with unfinished projects!).

7. Box it up or put it somewhere safe with other pieces that have the same sort of priority - for example things that you know you want to work on soon need to be kept where you can see them and grab them.

Give it Some Meaning

When I look at these old unfinished pieces, I often find that I've lost the imitial desire I had to finish them and that's why they remain unfinished.

I write a lot of fiction as well and I've discovered that when I edit a story I sometimes have to add new things into it to respark that initial excitement I had for the project. The same can be done with unfinished craft projects.

The textiles piece below had been stuffed in a box for about 4 years or so.

I wasn't happy with the animals that were dotted around the outside of the piece (you can see a close-up of them below) and I intended to cut out the portraits (of me and my partner) and put them onto a new background that was less busy and didn't have the animals on it. That seemed like a lot of work so I never got around to it.

When I pulled this piece out again whilst working on this lens I realised that I had an opportunity to work into those animals. For a while I'd been thinking about making some new animal pieces - not remembering this old piece. I wanted to make a lens about depicting animals in textiles and was planning to start all these new pieces.

So now I've found something old that I can finish and use to practice my artistry. I can work at bringing those animals to life. I can document my progress on a lens and hopefully I can then finish the whole piece.

Above: Detail from my Engagement Quilt (shown in full further down the page).

I've found making lenses and keeping a blog very beneficial to being able to keep on and finish challenges.

I don't think I'd be able to finish half the things I do if I didn't think that someone was checking up on what I was doing once in a while!

Opposite: Fabric Envelope.

Perhaps there's something in your half-started collection that would make a great gift for someone you love.

Maybe there's a birthday coming up soon?

Events like birthdays are great because they give you a deadline to work to and if you're anything like me then you need deadlines to be able to get things done!

My partner's birthday is coming up very soon (as I'm writing this lens) and as he can basically buy anything he likes for himself anyway I wanted to do something you can't buy and write him a long, romantic letter from the heart.

It occurred to me the other day that I started a project earlier this year about textiles correspondence - i.e. making letters out of fabric. I never really finished it properly so this is an awesome opportunity!

Above: One of my sewn letter pages.

Letting Go

Sometimes you have piles and piles of projects to finish but there's a couple that you know you will never ever finish.

You have no desire to work on those projects at all and yet you can't bear to part with them because of all the hard work and effort you put into them.

Are there aspects of them that you do like?

Are there pieces that can be cut away and added to something else?

Perhaps you can find a trusted crafty friend who would give you advice on what you could do with it.

If you look at my section of unfinished textiles objects you'll find a textiles book I took apart and have since been trying to rework the cover into another smaller book.

I tried to rework the piece below by adding the female figure onto that background but it just didn't work and I realised finally that I could let go of her.

Click thumbnail to view full-size

I still like the idea of the piece above but I went about it the wrong way.

I decided that I would finally take this piece apart and reuse the individual parts for new textiles pieces.

As the background wasn't heavily sewn into yet I was able to take it apart and use the organza, fabric and wadding for another textiles project - this was awesome because I was running low on organza and wadding and finances at the time!

Now I know how I'd work on this piece again if I chose to and i have photographs of it so I can remember what it was like, without having to have it cluttering up my home.

Share Your Thoughts - Reader Feedback.

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    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I love your patchy blanket! What a great idea to catalog unfinished projects with photos and descriptions. I do minimal crafting, but as an electronics hobbyist I have several "gadgets" that I'm tinkering with at any given time, and limited workbench space, so some have to be put away... I will start attaching notes to the unfinished projects that I have to store. Great lens, and beautiful pieces you showcase here (even if not all finished!) :-)

    • WindyWintersHubs profile image


      7 years ago from Vancouver Island, BC

      Your quilts and craft projects are very beautiful. But don't worry about unfinished stuff...I always till myself I must finish one plan, project, trip etc. from the previous year. Sometimes it works, sometimes...oops not.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @howtocurecancer: Thanks :)

    • howtocurecancer profile image


      7 years ago

      Interesting lens.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @moonlitta: Good luck with them! :D

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great ideas here, I've also have skeletons, but mine are knitted not textile.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @Kitty Levee: Thanks :D

    • Kitty Levee profile image

      Kitty Levee 

      7 years ago

      I love your bunny patterns!

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      7 years ago

      @Wednesday-Elf: So far I've managed to keep my knitting and crochet stuff under control (that means only a few WIPs!!) - I just need to spin and knit my way through the massive bag of fleece I was given a couple of years ago :/

      Hope your organising goes well! Are you on Ravelry?

    • Wednesday-Elf profile image


      7 years ago from Savannah, Georgia

      My craft is crochet and I 'most often' work on one piece until it's finished. BUT, I have 2 large bags filled with projects I started and never finished for one reason or another. Most of the time, if I've decided the piece is not working out, I can 'unravel' the yarn and reuse it, but sometimes I just lost interest. Time to haul them out and categorize them - or take them apart and make something new! Thanks for the encouragement in 'finishing' unfinished craft projects!

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      8 years ago

      @Virginia Allain: I don't have the patience for quilting either! I'm just not tidy enough. Someone gave me a loom a while back and I don't have the patience for that either! It just hogs space :/

      Thanks for visiting.

    • Virginia Allain profile image

      Virginia Allain 

      8 years ago from Central Florida

      I wanted to be a quilter and accumulated lots of fabric. Then I discovered that I didn't have the patience for it and what I really wanted to do was collect vintage quilts, not make them. Sigh... I have used some of the fabrics to cover boxes and to use in my valentines.

    • Rachel Field profile imageAUTHOR

      Rachel Field 

      8 years ago

      @marsha32: Awesome! I hope it goes well :D

      Thanks for visiting.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I have a quilt laying just couple feet from me on the floor....I really need to finish it and get it put up for've inspired me to pick it up and work on it right now (it's laid there 2 weeks with me doing nothing on it)


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