Managing Your Quilting UFOs

Managing Your Quilting UFOs

As a quilter, you will undoubtedly have some UFOs (unfinished objects) in your stash. The number can vary depending on how long you have been a quilter. UFOs are quilts that are in various stages of completion. Maybe the fabric has been cut but no piecing has taken place. Maybe the piecing has begun, but not been completed. Maybe the piecing has been completed and the quilt top waits to be quilted. Maybe the fabric is old or outdated and no longer appeals to you. No matter what stage your UFOs are in, it’s a good idea to go through them once a year and access exactly what is there and what your plans are for each of these items. Let’s look at some strategies for dealing with your UFOs: 

Take Inventory and Assess your UFO Stash

Take a look at all your UFOs and first determine exactly why it became a UFO. Did you set it aside because you needed more of one of the fabrics? Did you stop piecing it because you didn’t like the way it was turning out? Did life just get in the way, keeping you from finishing the project? Have you set it aside numerous times, in favor of starting something new? Was it a large project and you just got bored of working on it? Being honest about why an object became a UFO is the key to managing your UFO stash.

Once you have clarified to yourself why/how a project was placed in your UFO pile, you are ready to manage and organize these unfinished projects. First, you will purge the projects you will never complete. Then you will prioritize the remaining projects. Lastly, you will create your strategy for working your way through what’s left of your UFO pile. Let’s look at each of these steps in detail:


Out with the old in with the new sign

If a project became a UFO because you didn’t like the way it was turning out so you stopped working on it or, you just didn’t like it anymore (for any reason), get rid of it! There is no joy in working on something you don’t like and don’t care if you ever finish. Working on a project like this is like going to a job you hate…it is soul-crushing.

Life is too short and it’s not loving to yourself to force yourself to work on something that feels like drudgery. Instead, donate the remaining fabric to a local guild or charity, gift it to a friend or sell it on-line. I once started a king size quilt for our master bedroom. I got halfway through the piecing and absolutely did not like the way it looked. I took pictures of the half-pieced quilt top, along with the unused fabric and sold it through an on-line quilting group. Getting rid of the UFOs that you honestly don’t ever want to complete is the first step in managing your UFO stash. It feels incredibly freeing to release the old…so don’t be afraid to do just that!


Set Your Priorities Sign

Now that you have (hopefully) cleared out the UFOs that you are not interested in completing, you will be left with the projects you actually would like to finish. Prioritize them by putting them in the order you would like to complete them. Either stack them in a way that makes this obvious, or pin a label to each one with its order in your priority list clearly visible.

Create Your Strategy

Your UFO completion strategy is unique to you. We each have very different schedules and ways of working on our quilting projects. Here are some suggestions to get you started on possible strategies:

Your strategy should always include starting with focusing on ONE UFO at a time. Choose the project you labeled as number one in your priority list. Forget about the rest for now. You will not pick up another UFO until this one is completed. Scattering your time, energy and focus only creates chaos and more UFOs!

One option is to insert your UFO project in between your planned/upcoming projects. This will insure you start it with a clean slate, rather than putting aside something else to make time to work on the UFO (thus, possibly creating yet another UFO).

Another option is to schedule some time each week to devote to working on the UFO. This strategy works if you are in the midst of a long-term project and not between projects. Set aside one day or one afternoon a week to work on the UFO. This approach is also helpful when a project involves a lot of repetitive piecing that can get boring. Switching up what you’re working on in this way can keep things interesting.

If you are someone who prefers a more structured “buddy system” approach, there are many UFO challenge programs which start at the beginning of each year. This is a system in which you submit your list of UFOs at the beginning of the year and post your progress throughout the year. Many quilt guilds sponsor these, as well as many on-line shops and websites. An internet search for “Quilting UFO Challenge” should bring up numerous results.

UFOs to Finished Quilts

Since your UFO stash now only contains projects you actually want to finish and each project has been labeled according to your priorities for it’s completion, you now have a game plan for tackling (and finishing) these projects. Utilize any strategy (or all of them!) that will work for you, given your schedule, time constraints and project complexity as you work through your list of projects. Keep at it, always looking forward with a singular focus on one UFO at a time to keep from feeling overwhelmed. In this way, you will soon find yourself with no more UFOs and lots of newly completed quilts!

Until next time, Happy Quilting!

Solomae Signature

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1 comment

Thanks Solomae, I had already decided on a similar plan for the UFOs (hadn’t put into action yet) but it was putting it all together like you did that helped and maybe I can finally empty the UFO box.

Julie Elliott

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