[ Quilting Tips ]

UFOs…how long is your list of unfinished (quilt) objects?

I made my first quilt in 2004 from a Terry Atkinson pattern. I liked the Alexander Henry fabric so much that I made a pieced back so it is truly a reversible quilt.  Then I started the Underground Railroad sampler. And a quilted jacket.  Then a peek-a-boo quilt with lots of prairie points.  Those three projects, and at least a dozen more, are piled in a closet.  Unfinished objects are a fact of life for most quilters. Why do projects turn into UFOs?  What can we do to manage this ever-growing problem?unifinished objects in my quilting room                                                                  (a pile of quilt tops waiting to be finished)

How Unfinished Objects are born

One reason quilters have a double-digit list of UFOs is Shiny Object Syndrome.  I blame the fabric companies.  Every three to six months, new fabric lines are released, with fabulous new patterns to tempt us to buy the latest and greatest stuff.  Most quilters have limited time to sew but we think we can piece a king size quilt from one inch strips in a single weekend.  All these enticing projects mean we flit from one project to the next in the hopes that with a little bit of effort spread across many projects, something will eventually get finished.

Another reason for lengthy lists of unfinished objects is that life tends to interrupt.  As the saying goes, quilters plan and God laughs.  I have good intentions of finishing the block of the month from 2007, but then my neighbor asks me to make a baby quilt for a friend.  I can’t turn down a commission, so the ten-year-old BOM goes back into the closet while I make the baby quilt.  Deadlines and paychecks tend to be strong motivators!

quilt blocks on the design wall


Managing the list of Unfinished Objects

There are many ways to shrink that list of UFOs.  Most involve equal parts self-discipline and extrinsic motivation, i.e. rewards.  For some dedicated quilters, making a list is all the motivation they need.  Seeing each project written in black and white allows you to prioritize.  Joining an online forum and declaring your intention to get things finished provides accountability. I was part of a group on Ravelry that committed to buying fat quarters for each other as a reward for finishing one of five stated projects during a three month period.  Even though I did not need any more fabric, I did work hard to join the winner’s circle!

My local guild also runs a UFO challenge.  At the beginning of the year, everyone listed twelve unfinished projects. Each month, the program chair drew a number and if you finished that item on your list, your name is entered into a raffle.  Big cheers erupt during show and tell when someone finally shares a FINISHED project!

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About Author


Longarm Quilter, Pattern Designer, Teacher


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