I had a friend from one of my quilting groups ask for ideas, advice etc. for doing a DJ quilt. I though it was a good topic to address here.
My Dear Jane Advise (from my personal experiences)
First of all, in my opinion, the software is worth it!! The ability to print of paper pieced foundations is invaluable! Unless you hate to paper piece.
I got the majority of my DJ blocks done while in a swap group. We would make 9 of the same block per month then when we swapped, there would be 9 different blocks to add to our indivdual quilts. I don't know that I would swap with an unknown group again, since the coordinator didn't make double-tripple sure that the ladies would do a great job.
I would try to set a goal, but maybe make it a monthy goal instead of daily. Sometimes you have only an hour, sometimes you have a day to work on them. A realistic goal for me (with a 3 year old) would be about 10 - 15 per month. I would make sure that I had 3 or 4 easier blocks in the mix incase I had a trying day, but wanted to feel like I'd accomplished something!
To keep things interesting, you could write each block on a small piece of paper ie. A-1, L-12, G-7 etc and put the little papers in a fun jar, bag or box. Then when you have time, blindly grab a piece of paper and do that block. I liked to have a block here and there done, it was like a bingo game sheet!
I printed my paper piecing patterns on newsprint paper that is thinner than regular paper so it is easy to tear off. I also shortened my stitch to make ripping the paper off easier.
Another thing I did was to keep it out and up on my design wall. My design wall is a piece of batting the size of my wall. I put my blocks on it in the order they are supposed to go. I walked passed it almost daily and it was always on my mind. It was easy for me to see that a row only needed two more to make it complete, so I would do two more and feel accomplished that I had finished an entire row!
I had two great friends who were working on it at the same time, so when I got frustrated, I would go see their quilts, which were always ahead of mine, and be inspired to go gang-busters again..for a while!
I also allowed myself to sew on other things without guilt. When I would get frusterated, I would sew on something else and then come back to the quilt - sometimes months later! There is no race to get it done, so let yourself relax and do it as you are able or else it's a chore! I didn't add my sashings (lattice) until I was starting to connect the blocks into rows. Just personal prefrence, no reason.
Honestly, the HARDEST part of doing DJ is trying to stop collecting the gorgeous fabrics!!