The UFO Challenge: How Many Unfinished Quilt Projects Do You Have?

These snails trail blocks were the beginnings of a quilt that I abandoned because the blocks were distorted and of varying sizes.

These snails trail blocks were the beginnings of a quilt that I abandoned because the blocks were distorted and of varying sizes.

A couple of years ago our local quilt guild sponsored a UFO campaign. A UFO is defined as a quilt project begun over one year ago that is not yet completely finished. Those who participated in the campaign admitted to an average of 16 unfinished projects each. One person claimed she did not have any UFOs, however, the following month she admitted to finding one which she promptly completed. She seems not to be the norm.

What is it that causes us to move on to another project before completing the last – over and over again? Do we run into obstacles that we do not know how to resolve? Do we become bored when another project grabs our attention? Are some of our UFOs remnants of a class we took and didn’t like how the piece was turning out? The underlying issue is the same – lack of commitment to the decisions we have made.

Finishing pieces is important. Unfinished quilts take up space in our sewing room and worse yet, they take up space in our head. They can leave us feeling wasteful, unfulfilled, lacking in ability, somehow defective. Part of us says I want to make this beautiful quilt, and another part of us says we are not capable of doing so. No wonder we have difficulty trusting our decisions and resolving issues with all these demons running around upstairs.

There are many steps to making a quilt and each step requires our full attention. When that step is completed, we move on to the next, not second guessing our previous decisions but working with what we have in front of us. Our task is to focus and commit to each step, to each decision, as the quilt evolves in its own unique way.

Finishing a project gives us satisfaction and an opportunity to learn from our experience. Problem solving gives us a sense of accomplishment, a can-do energy. If the project turns out better than we expected, our creative juices are enriched even further giving us renewed energy for the next project.

UFO challenge accepted!

UFO challenge accepted!

Pictured here is the finished result of my own recent UFO – my snail trail blocks. I squared up the blocks, cutting off whatever was necessary to do so. I arranged and sewed the blocks together. I then covered the pieced top with a rainbow print organza. The color wash effect of the organza diluted the imperfect seam lines, drawing my eye away from the imperfections to the overall design of the snails trail pattern. It has yet to be quilted but the problem stopper has been resolved. I learned I need to square up my blocks as I go along to keep them from becoming distorted and to maintain a uniform size. Better yet, I learned that the improvised plan sometimes turns out better than the original.

I challenge you to count up your own UFOs. Be honest. Know that you are not alone. The next step is to choose one, commit to it, taking it one step at a time. You just might be amazed at how wonderful that UFO can be.

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32 Responses to “The UFO Challenge: How Many Unfinished Quilt Projects Do You Have?”

  1. Mary

    II have taken classes to learned new methods which left a lot of unfininished quilts table runners and all sorts of projects left undoneIam glad there are others in continuing to help get cracking and motivate me to finished what I have started Thank you girls,

  2. Carolyn

    I have 3 unfinished Quilts & I want to try free motion quilting on my home machine i find that is hard because they are big & I have only stitched in the ditch. I rented time on a long arm & and I did free motion & loved it .It was so relaxing. Has any one tried those frames that you can set up on your table and use it as a long arm.

  3. Carolyn

    what is & how do you do a color effect

  4. Lisa

    My guild had a challenge two years ago. I was able to identify 13 that needed completion and I set about to work on them. I polished off 4. I recently moved into a new house. In the process of moving into my first real sewing room in over 20 years, I discovered at least a dozen more than the 13 UFO's in my memory. And I'm still unpacking. Resolution: No new projects until two are finished.

  5. Karen Cameron

    This is very timely for me! I have my own UFOs as well as UFOs inherited from my momma & aunt when they died 5 years ago! Your post gave me the nudge I needed to start working through them. Thank you!

  6. Katie Havelka

    I'll be happy to receive all that you have to offer. Katie Havelka

  7. Carolyn

    I easily have over around 35 unfinished projects. I love to start new things and get bored easily. My daughter says I have ADHD and I agree. My projects are beginning to haunt me and I actually have quilted a quilt that I finished years ago. I have finished tow tops this year and am trying to get yet another UFO I started 15 years ago put together this week.

  8. Carol Tackett

    I have UFO's (ALL) over my quilt room. There are too many to count. There may be in the range of 30. I have to say that is an embarrassing number. Quilting is great until a distraction "squirrel" changes my direction.

  9. Debbie Skinner

    Currently I have approximately three UFOS but this is only counting the quilts I have started and not finished. I have many projects waiting to be started. Very often I have found that the current projects are put aside in order to complete other projects such as quilts for family and community service projects. Our guild has in the past held contests to inspire us to finish our UFOS. It worked like this: each member completes a form labeling all of her UFOS then each month when we do show-n-tell the members will indicate whether or not her project was a UFO and it gets marked off her list. Then when we have our banquet in June the member who has completed the most UFOs gets a prize. A few years back I did have a quilt that once I sewed the blocks together I didn't like it-(it was a mystery quilt challenge by our guild). I took it with me to our quilt retreat planning to put the borders on to at least get the top finished. When I had put the second border on a new member commented on how beautiful it was. That comment inspired me to finish it and when it was completed I did like it.

  10. Marlene Clausen

    I used to have quite a few that were in some stage of incomplete. About five years ago I made a rule that I had to finish one UFO before I could start a new project. I am now down to about 4 that need piecing. My BIG pile is tops that need to be quilted. I prefer to hand quilt, but that is not happening and I cannot afford to quilt by check. So, am teaching myself machine quilting. I practice a technique until I'm happy with my ability to do it, then pick a small UFO top and quilt it. I, then, do it on a larger one. Now that pile is also going down. A bonus is my new tops stay OFF the UFO pile because I can now quilt those with one of the patterns I've perfected.