Stay Organized: Tips for keeping your quilting business on track

Keeping track of all of your art quilting projects can be challenging. Heck—keeping track of your daily life can be challenging! However, to run a successful art business you need to get and stay organized. Leading artists in the field of art quilting are skillful, not only in their art (as evidenced by the stunning pages of The Quilting Arts Idea Book), but are learned in the ways of business. Sue Bleiweiss is no stranger to the intricacies of running a quilting business, and she’s developed some key pointers to keep herself and others on target. Read on for some of Sue’s best tips.

Each day, the first thing I do when I get to my studio is to review my to-do list. I favor the tried-and-true paper list: I write the date in the upper right corner and list everything that I need to get done along with the date each task is due. I look at this list every day to make sure I am on track. I keep it updated, adding and deleting things as needed. When the page gets too messy to read, I flip to a new page and start again. It’s a simple system but it works for me, and it’s what has kept me from missing deadlines and from overcommitting. I always know exactly where I stand.

“Stay Calm and Press On” • 15″ x 15″

Write it down

The first step in getting—and staying—organized is to write things down. The only way you’re going to stay on top of what you need to do and when you need to do it by is to keep a list. Finding a system that works is like buying a new pair of jeans: you may have to try a few on for size before discovering the one that fits you best. My simple system of paper and pen has worked for me for many years but you might prefer something digital. The key is to find a system you’ll commit to using.

Get into the habit of checking and updating your list on a daily basis. If every day feels like overkill, set a reminder on your calendar to check it once or twice a week. Some artists find it helpful to review and update their list not only at the beginning, but then again at the end of the day in order to set themselves up for success the next day.


Just making a list of tasks is not enough: take the time to prioritize and rank each task. If you don’t know which tasks are more important, have to be done in a particular order, or are due before others, then you can’t know which ones to focus on first. It’s easy to reorder if you are using a digital list but it can be tedious if you are using pen and paper. It might help to color code or highlight a handwritten list.

Keep records

When I first started out I can’t tell you how many times I forgot which quilt I had submitted, how I had priced it, and what my artist statement said. I now print out a copy of my submission document and keep it in a folder labeled “submitted backup” along with the original prospectus so I have a record.
I track my traveling quilt inventory using a very simple spreadsheet that includes the quilt name, where it has been shipped, contact information, the date, shipping carrier, and tracking number. I also note what date I expect the quilt to be returned.

“I Always Feel Better After I Wine” • 18″ x 18″

5 Strategies to Stay on Track

• Write it down. The easiest way to keep a deadline is if you track it. The easiest way to miss a deadline is to rely on your memory!
• Keep your focus on the here and now. Long-term goals and dreams should go on a separate list.
• Check in with your list daily and keep it updated.
• Make it relevant. Keep only the things related to your art life on your studio list. Pick up milk; call mom; and buy a birthday gift need a separate list.
• Be flexible. If the system you are using isn’t working, try another. You’ll eventually find one that fits.

Such great advice from one of the industry’s experts! Pick up the latest copy of Quilting Arts Magazine and The Quilting Arts Idea Book for more advice from leading professionals and information and inspiration to grow your quilting business—not to mention stunning artwork! Now I think I’ll just go color-code my artist’s to-do list!

Sew long,

Sue Bleiweiss is an award-winning fiber artist recognized for her whimsical imagery and bold, saturated quilts. In her new book, Modern Art Quilts: Design, Fuse & Quilt-As-You-Go, she demonstrates how to create dynamic modern art quilts with no piecing required. Sue lives in Massachusetts.
Header image: “To-do List” • 19″ x 19″ Photos courtesy of Sue Bleiweiss

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