Quilting UFOs

A UFO is an acronym that stands for “unidentified flying object”. Quiltmkers have borrowed the term, and quilting UFOs are “un-finished objects”, that is, quilting projects that a quilter starts making, but they never get finished.

Although it is not really a new problem, since antique blocks not pieced into quilts or tops that are not quilted do appear in antique shops or online auction websites, it has become a more prominent issue for contemporary quilters because of the vast amount of choices that are available.

Quilting UFOS accumulate in a crafter’s sewing room after a time. It is very tempting to start the quilt you see in this month’s magazine, new book or that appears in the e-newsletter you subscribe to. It is tempting, but often times, quilting ufosthese projects end up in the back burner because of time constraints, because they are not keyed to the skill level of the quilter, or perhaps because they don’t appeal to the crafter as much once they start sewing them. Maybe the choice of fabrics is wrong, there are problems with the pattern… the list is endless. The bottom line is, the project gets stored away and it becomes a UFO.

The worst part of dealing with unfinished objects is the guilt factor. After having invested money in materials, the project doesn’t pan out and it sits and there might be a feeling of guilt about starting a new project when there is one waiting to be completed. Realistically, the longer the project sits the least the chance of getting it finished. So what’s there to do with all these projects that just take space in the sewing room and in a quilter’s conscience?

How to Manage Quilt UFOs

The problem is not as simple as saying, “I will finish all these projects before I start a new one”. It is unrealistic, depending on the number of UFO projects (the longer a crafter quilts the higher the number). But there is a tremendous satisfaction in seeing a completed quilt, even if it isn’t finished the way it was intended when started. Another acronym used in contemporary quilting is WIP (Work In Progress). So why not take some quilting time to transform those unfinished projects into works in progress. The first logical option can be:

 Transform the UFO into something doable. If you started a king sized top and you got stuck with a small number of quilting ufosblocks, why not make a wallhanging from the blocks you already have pieced? A smaller quilt might be finished and given as a gift during the holidays. Someone will appreciate it as a finished decorative object. Orphan blocks that might have been made to test a block’s construction methods can be turned into pillows with a few borders, a backing and a little piping. Table runners, mats, Christmas ornaments… the smaller the size, the more likely a project will be finished in a few hours and won’t sit on a shelf.

 Think about donating your UFOs to organizations that take them to complete them and give them to people who can use a quilt for comfort or warmth. Check with your quilt shop or guild to see if there are local groups that will take donations to make blankets for children, for nursing homes or veteran homes. Non-profit organizations finish tops and distribute them when they are needed. We take blankets for granted now, but every winter there is a need for them. Get together with your quilting friends and make a day of it, bring your orphan blocks or tops and work together to finish one or two and donate it to someone who will be able to use it.

 Get together with your quilt guild or quilting friends and have a UFO swap meet. Maybe your junk is another quilter’s treasure. The quilt project that you started and can’t finish might be doable to another quilter who will be glad to take it off your hands and perhaps you can set a trade for quilting services, or for sewing a binding on, a couple yards of fabric. Agree on a few rules and see if your UFO list becomes shorter that way.

 Set realistic expectations for your UFO list. Maybe you have a few tops that need quilting. Ask yourself if you will quilting ufosbe able to hand quilt them like you intended or if they can be machine quilted to become usable that way. Instead of spending more money on a few yards of fabric, why not send a top to be machine quilted? Even with a very simple panto-graph-quilting job, the UFO will become a useful quilt and no longer sit on a shelf.

 Look into quilt classes for UFO finishing or quilt camps. Your quilt shop or quilt guild might offer classes that will encourage you to finish the UFO. You bring your project and get suggestions or help to finish it. Sometimes simply setting a couple hours a week to work on a project is all the push that is needed to complete it, alongside other people who are dealing with the same problem. Some quilt guilds offer “quilt camps”, normally a weekend affair in a remote location where quilters can get together without distractions and work on projects. If your quilt guild has one of these, why not sign up and finish a top or quilt a top?

And don’t forget the simple idea of discipline and maybe just sewing a yard of thread in an unfinished project next time you sit down to sew. Before you start stitching the new project you are working on, force yourself to sew a yard of thread or thirty minutes on one of your UFO projects. In a reasonable amount of time, you might find yourself with one less reason to feel guilty about starting a new quilt.

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