To finish, or not to finish? Part TWO

Yesterday, I gave you permission to abandon unfinished projects that you are no longer engaged with, and I promised you a look at the UFOs in my studio. So here they are, along with my plans for them:

First up – the Birdie Quilt. My housemate loves birds, and so last year I started this quilt for her when she retired. We kid around about putting birds on things, so this was part joke and part celebration of her impending freedom from the corporate grind. It stalled in the studio because it wasn’t needed for the cover of a pattern, or for a store sample (these get done first due to their urgency), but mostly it stalled because quilting is not my fave part of the process. I also stall here when I can’t figure out how to quilt it, or it’s big enough to need serious wrangling under the needle – I tend to put these aside for a more inspirational or courageous/oodles-of-patience day. As for the Birdies… I got it finished last week, and I’m happy to report she loved it!


Next up – a Halloween swap. I used to throw legendary pumpkin carving parties, so I have an insane collection of pumpkin carving patterns. My mini group from years back decided to use these patterns as applique inspiration, and so we all swapped “carved” applique on orange backgrounds. I honestly can’t remember when we did this, but my guess is at least 10 years ago, if not 15. I moved forward a little on mine by getting them pumpkin shaped and appliqued onto backgrounds, but now they are stalled.


I’m lacking inspiration on how to set them all together, and I know that I really want to add a bunch more different styles of Halloween blocks and imagery to the pile – so much more planning and designing are in order. In my head this will be a sort of epic, once-in-a-lifetime type of project, so I don’t mind that it’s still waiting, but I just wish I had a few epic ideas. It also has incredible sentimental value to me, not just because several dear friends are represented in the blocks, but because I appliqued for it. I don’t like applique at all (I consider it to be a four-letter word twice over), and yet I fought through it to participate with my friends.

So I consider this a “finish but not now” project – one with no set deadline. I’ve had one other long term UFO like this – a paper-pieced lone star project that I carried around for 16 years… I only worked on it when I sewed at friends’ homes, and it eventually got done! Your version of this might be a hand-work hexagon affair that will build over the years into a heirloom keeper. As I write this, I’ve decided to take it to my minigroup at our next meeting and ask for some input. I might even start taking it to sewing days.

And so to the third project – a Star-in-a-Star block. I took this workshop in January 2003 (I still had the receipt in the project bag!) so this a ten year UFO!


I got these 4 blocks done, and have another 3 sets chosen but the problem with this one is that I don’t like my fabric choices. I chose a rather controlled palette of hand-dyed fabrics as the base, and I thought they looked good until I saw my housemate finish hers out of an explosion of colorful batiks:


I have pulled this project out so many times over the last few years, only to put it back in the drawer because I just don’t love it. I want the quilt above, not mine! I’ve been advised to do a table runner, but I don’t like them or use them. I looked at piecing it into the back of a quilt (my usual M.O. for random bits) but instead I think I will give it away to someone who loves it more than I do, along with the pattern and extra bits.

So if you’d like to own my Star-in-a-Star UFO, please say so in the comments and I’ll pick a random winner on Monday (01.21.13)

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve pieced the tops and back for two more quilts (they await quilting, my usual stall place!) and have pulled fabric for three more. Such is the life cycle of the studio!


To finish, or not to finish? Part ONE

UFO Permission Slip

So how goes your UFO pile? It seems that every quilting and crafting blog I’ve read this month is exhorting us to make this the month, if not year, of finishing the unfinished projects. I was inspired by the first couple of excited blogs, but by the 20th, I just wanted to take to the couch with a cup of tea and some seriously unimportant reading matter. And a plate of cookies because I haven’t yet resolved to lose a ridiculous amount of weight this year either.

I’m all for finishing… as you can imagine, Miss Efficiency here doesn’t like the clutter of UFOs! I tend to be serially monogamous to my projects so I don’t have many UFO’s around. I can look you in the eye and tell you I had 3 UFO’s at the beginning of the year – don’t hate me! And for the record… if it’s a planned project, as in I have the fabric but I didn’t start cutting yet, it is not a UFO by my definition. It can’t be unfinished if I haven’t started it!

I will show you the 3 UFOs tomorrow, but in the meantime, let’s have a chat about what can be done about UFO’s in general.

I think there really are two main categories – UFOs you are still interested in, and UFOs that you no longer love. On the “still interested” side there are many tricks and games to play in order to get yourself to do them, but really, find a way to make a list (that makes sense to you) and just get going on it. Really. Just do it, and reward yourself heartily at each milestone of completion, no matter how small the milestone or the reward.

The other side of the drawer is reserved for the stuff you no longer love. You started it, and for whatever reason, you stalled. Perhaps you hated a fabric choice, and it’s too far gone to fix. Perhaps it was a workshop for a technique that you now know you’ll never, ever, ever do again. Perhaps the boyfriend that you were going to give it to is no longer in the picture (and seeing the fabric doesn’t bring back any good memories). Whatever the reason, it no longer moves you, and is taking up space in your sewing room and on your list of things to feel crappy about.

So let’s get rid of them, shall we? Think about it…. if you were to kick the scrap-bucket tomorrow, and look down upon your friends and family as they attempt to sort through your UFOs, what would you see? Would they see things you love, or things you hate? What if a long lost cousin grabs for that set of mismatched baskets from a block swap in the 80’s and mistakenly thinks this represents you? And fights through putting them together with their awful seam allowances (and doubly awful fabrics), imagining that this honors your memory? Hardly.

Why put yourself through finishing something had no longer inspires you or has value in your life? You really don’t need to struggle through these things, wearing the quilting equivalent of the hair shirt. If you can let it go, you can make mental and physical space for new things.

First, try to give them away. As the saying goes, one person’s trash is another’s treasure. Take them to your guild or offer them to your quilty pals, and someone will probably want to take them home. It doesn’t matter if they stall in a friend’s UFO pile because, let’s be honest, they’re no longer in yours!

Second – look for the places that welcome donations of quilting supplies to make projects for people in need. If your guild doesn’t have an ongoing community service gig, Project Linus is always a good place to start, and there are many chapters with quilt store affiliations that let you do an easy drop off.

Last option – chuck it. Toss it out. Snip it into little pieces for fun (or if it was the ex-boyfriend project, for catharsis). Give it to the kids to glue into collage. Burn it ceremoniously. But get it out of the house.

There. Doesn’t that feel better? Out with the old so there’s room for the new! And if anyone asks, tell them you had my permission!