I’ve been working on one particular quilt for just over a year ago now – a brightly coloured 80″x80″ quilt with “Monkey Wrench” quilt pattern blocks in bright blue, orange, green and pink.  I keep getting distracted from this project by other projects, so I’ve finally decided that I just need to force myself through the rest of the blocks to finish this once and for all.  No more distractions!

This is still a work in progress.  The biggest problem I was having with this quilt was that I paused work on it for over 6 months, placing all my cut pieces into a cardboard box for safekeeping.  I had my loose plan taped to the outside of the box so I would remember what I was doing and where I was headed.  Or so I thought.

step 0

When assembling the remaining units that need to be assembled, something was wrong: there just wasn’t enough of the blue and white polka dot fabric you see in the image above “Birds in the Air” corner unit.  Apparently my 6-months-ago self had made a miscalculation, and my today-self was not too pleased.  It was out of stock in my usual fabric store, but thankfully, I was able to find the exact same fabric at another version of the same chain.  Phew!  I resumed sewing “Birds in the Air” units for what seemed like forever.

With the bulk of my blocks completed, I started to lay them out on the floor to see how they were looking beside each other.  Again, my 6-months-ago self was looming over today-self, and I was hating the layout that I had originally created.  However, since each block is 10″ wide and tall finished, I was finding it difficult to figure out my new layout due to the sheer scale of it.

I decided that I needed to figure it out on paper at a smaller scale so that it was easier to move the blocks around and experiment with their placement.

First, I reused some thick cardstock that had things printed on one side and flipped it over to use the clean side.  Reuse and recycle, wherever possible!  Using a paper cutter, I sliced the paper into 2″ strips, then 2″ squares.  Each 2″ square represented one 10″ finished quilt block:

step 1

Using a pen and ruler, I drew a representation of my Monkey Wrench Quilt block.  I didn’t put in every detail, just the elements that were important for my layout.  For my blocks, the three important things to consider were the dominant colour of the large triangles, the corners’ base colour, and the fabric design located at the top, bottom, left and right of the unit.  I wanted to ensure that corner base would be next to a corner colour on an adjacent block but not have the square and the centre side of each unit be the same as an adjacent square.  I filled in these areas with pencil crayon to represent each of the fabric options.

step 2


Once I coloured in all the units that were already completed, I was able to play with the placement of each block on a smaller scale and figure out a design that worked for me.

step 3

My special helper Diamond was helping too much, so I needed a way to be able to keep my new layout stable so I could reference it.

my little helper, Diamond

With a simple piece of cardboard from the recycling bin, a pants hanger, and a piece of masking tape on each picture, I was able to secure the design in place in my craft room, hanging it so that I can reference it quickly.

step 4

The advantage of the masking tape is that you can easily remove the block that you are working on and tape it beside your sewing machine to reference the layout on the fly as you piece the block.  To keep track of which blocks are complete, I fully colour in the block with pencil crayon.

Building this repositionable plan has reinvigorated my interest in completing this stowed away project.  Instead of feeling trapped by a plan that didn’t work out, I now feel more confident to proceed.  I hope this post inspires you to revisit a project that you have (temporarily) abandoned.  Sometimes you just need a fresh set of eyes to discover the missing element.

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