Jacquelynne Steves

Tips to get those UFO’s (UnFinished Objects & Projects) DONE!

In my last post, I shared some suggestions for categorizing your UFO’s and deciding what to keep. I offered a little bit of “tough love,” and gave you permission to let some stuff GO. Get rid of it. Make room in your life for things that are new and fresh (both literally and figuratively.) Sometimes, it is obvious which projects you want to keep and which you want to let go of.

Thank you for your incredible response to that article! So many nice comments and emails, and people telling me that they were forwarding it to their friends and guild members. I think that a lot of articles address HOW to finish incomplete projects, but what we don’t talk about is WHY we ended up with that mountain to begin with. While going through your UFOs, it might be good to do a little self examination as well. Why did we start these projects? Because the kit was on sale, or because it was a “fad” that everyone in the guild was in to? Were we unrealistic about the amount of time it would take to complete it? Maybe we even have to dig a little deeper… am I using “stuff” to fill some other void? Am I expecting a completed project to make me feel a certain way? (It kind of reminds me of being really gung-ho on the first day of a diet, imagining the new wardrobe and the envy of our friends at the high school reunion… and that lasts for about 3 days… then back to the old ways. We get so excited about a project, but then the reality of how long it’s really going to take sinks in, we get overwhelmed, and into the closet it goes.) Are we looking to “feel” a certain way… and we think that X fabric/kit/project will make us feel that way, or put us in good company??

Today, I’ll share a few more tips for prioritizing your UFO’s and deciding what to do with those projects that are in the “gray area,” in other words- you can’t decide if they are worth working on.

When looking over UFO’s which you’re not sure about, you can consider the following factors:

How long will it take me to finish this project? Does it just need a border? Is it ready for quilting? Is it already quilted but just needs a binding? Even if you don’t love a project, if it will take a minimal amount of time to complete, it may be worth it to “just do it” immediately (and as soon as possible) to get it off of your mind. This is especially true if you don’t mind doing the steps required. For example, I don’t really like machine-sewing binding to a quilt, but I like the hand sewing part- so it’s pretty easy for me to just push myself to get the machine sewing done and then get the entire project completed. But if you HATE that step, ask yourself if it is something you can hand off to someone else. Maybe your friend hates doing borders- could you offer to do her borders, and in exchange she could do your binding? Or, if it needs quilting, can you have it done as quickly and inexpensively as possible by a long arm quilter? (Ask your long arm quilter if she does pantograph patterns- these are all over patterns which are much faster and therefore less expensive than custom quilting.) Some long arm quilters also offer binding services. It will cost a little more, but the project will be DONE.

Can I “downsize” this project? Was this project supposed to be a king size quilt, but your momentum just ran out? Try taking whatever you have done and turning it into a smaller project which you can get done more quickly. For example, if you have 6 out of 24 blocks done, turn them into a wall hanging or table runner. Make single blocks into pillows or potholders. Return the leftover fabric to your stash for another use, or give it away.

Is there something I can do to “love” this project again? You know how sometimes you find a fabric that you just love, and you buy it because you figure you will find a way to use it? Go through that stash and find the fabrics that you adore and can’t wait to work with. Can you work that fabric into the project some way? Sprinkle it into the blocks if they aren’t done yet. Or, if the blocks are already done, use it for sashing or borders. Working with beautiful fabrics can revive a project that’s grown stale.

Can I consider completing this project an act of love? Can this project be donated to a charity? A lonely or sick neighbor? A local nursing home?? Do you know someone who has been through some difficult times who could really use a thoughtful gift? If you can answer yes to any of these questions, then consider finishing the project to give away. While you are working on it, think of the recipient and how much it will brighten their day and warm their heart. If you are a spiritual person or person of faith, pray over the project as you work on it and ask that it and its recipient would be blessed- this is a form of meditation which can elevate your work beyond the physical. It can help to motivate you to complete projects that you don’t necessarily love or which aren’t to your own taste. You can also contact local charities, shops, and guilds to see if they accept unfinished quilt tops that can be completed and used for charity quilts. Here is another idea- get your friends together one day a week or month, and everyone can work on one person’s project. Many hands make light work! Commit to donating a certain number of finished projects to charity per year.

Can I make this into a fun event? Maybe your guild or sewing group would like to do a swap? Everyone can bring a few UFO’s that they are no longer interested in, and members can swap. Sometimes, we are just tired of looking at our own projects, and it’s fun to do something new. Or organize a round robin event, where each member adds a new part/border to an existing project. This can help breathe some new life into your project- it’s exciting to see what someone else does with a project that you might be stuck on.

Keep in mind that we ALL have projects that we have fallen out of love with, for one reason or another. If you have a large pile of UFO’s, it’s probably unrealistic to believe that you will get to ALL of them, someday. Just when is “someday,” anyway?? For those projects that you still can’t make a decision on, place them in a box and label it with the date for 9 months from today. Mark it on your calendar (you HAVE to do this- and you HAVE to commit to yourself that you will follow through). In 9 months, take a look through the box, and if you haven’t worked on it yet, and you’re still not sure- get rid of it. You have my permission (not that you need my permission, but if it makes you feel better, then take it.) If you feel guilty, then donate them or swap them, knowing that someone else will put them to use. I guarantee that once you move those old things out of your life, you really won’t miss them- and you will feel FREE.

So, now that you’ve decided which UFO’s are worth tackling, here are some tips for getting them done!

Start with the easiest ones first. Getting a project or two DONE will motivate you to do more. To keep things interesting, you can put all of your projects on slips of paper and put them in a basket. When you complete a project, just draw a slip of paper to see what you will work on next. Surprise!

Make it easy. Keep everything you need for a project handy by placing pattern, fabric, thread, etc. in a large transparent zip-lock bag or clear plastic box. Make sure to MARK your pattern when you’ve completed a step, so you can quickly pick up where you left off. (I like to use a pencil to make a large check mark next to a completed step, or draw a single line through a completed step so I know I’ve completed it. You could also use a highlighter to mark the steps you’ve completed.) There is nothing more frustrating than picking up a project and spending 30 minutes trying to figure out where you left off!! Make lots of notes to yourself and pin them to the parts of the project- for example, “these are flying geese units for block B,” or “these are leftover triangles from step 2 on page 3,” etc. Do not think that you will remember. You won’t.

Be ready. ALWAYS have a couple of hand-projects ready and waiting to go, both next to your favorite chair in front of the television, and in a tote bag that you can grab when you run out the door. This could be embroidery, hand applique, English paper piecing, binding, or hand quilting. It is worth investing in duplicate supplies- for example, I have 3 pairs of small embroidery scissors- one next to my sewing machine, one next to my TV chair, and another in a tote bag. That way, when I want to do a project, I have everything I need. (You would be surprised at how many times I will just NOT sew rather than walk into the next room to grab my supplies. Sad but true!!)

Set aside a particular time in your schedule to work on them. For example, you could:

  • –Work on your UFO for 20 to 60 minutes (or however much time you think you can reasonably commit to) every day.
  • –*This is my favorite tip! Set a timer for 20 minutes at the beginning of each sewing session. For the first 20 minutes, work on your UFO. When the 20 minutes is up, you are free to work on whatever you want! This will allow you to work on new things, while still making progress on your UFO’s.
  • –If you’re the type of person who likes to plan, decide which UFO you will work on each month of the year and mark it on your calendar. Reward yourself for completing the project by the last day of the month.

 

Keep yourself accountable (and keep it fun!)

  • –Consider making an agreement with a friend (or 2 or 3) to complete one UFO per month, then celebrate your accomplishment! If you live near your friend(s), meet for coffee or lunch and show off your completed projects. For “dessert,” do more sewing together!! If you don’t live near each other, send each other a fat quarter or other small gift as a reward for completing that month’s project.
  • –Alternate your new and UFO projects- complete a UFO, then work on a new project. Complete another UFO before moving on to another new project.

 

Charity quilt day

  • –Ask your guild or local shop to organize a charity quilt day, when you can get together with your friends specifically for the purpose of completing quilts for charity. If your guild or shop can’t organize it, you can organize one yourself! If your home isn’t big enough to host a few friends for a sewing day, ask a library, fire hall, etc. about the use of their facilities.

 

Reward yourself!

  • –When you complete a UFO, reward yourself. Of course, you can reward yourself with new fabric or a new pattern. You can also consider other rewards as well, which won’t add to your future UFO pile. These could be notions like a new ruler, some pretty baskets for getting your sewing room organized, or a video class for a technique you’ve been wanting to try. (Try a Craftsy or CreativeBug class!*)
  • –Consider giving yourself a BIG reward for completing several UFO’s. What about a sewing retreat? (And of course, bring more UFO’s to your retreat to work on and complete!)

*These are affiliate links- if you decide to make a purchase I will receive a small percentage of the sale, at no extra cost to you. This helps me to cover costs of maintaining my website, groceries, etc. Thanks!

 

23 Comments

  • Joyce
    Posted February 28, 2017 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

    Love these ideas for for doing UFOs. I have gotten mine sorted and in project bags and I’ve promised myself to try to complete one each month.

  • Kaye Walker
    Posted February 28, 2017 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Thank you! I really like the idea about setting a timer. I’m going to try that one.

  • Kerrie
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 7:24 am | Permalink

    Hi Jacquelynne

    Thanks for the fantastic tips to help with completing UFO’s.There are some in your list that I know will help me!
    I love your fabric choices for your next project. The colours really do pop alongside the black fabric

  • Bonnie L Thiem
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    These were great tips. Thanks. Love your website and the projects you bring to us.

  • Posted March 1, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

    The “downsize” idea worked for me. My daughter and I made a lot of baby quilts for a charitable project and several of my UFOs downsized nicely. Sometimes I did also have to add a little, but it really helped me clear out the clutter. Before that I had nearly 30 projects in one stage or another. Currently, I have less than 10, and most of those are less than a year old. I count that a big success.

  • Marlene Clausen
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Have been doing the last suggestion for several years and it has GREATLY decreased by UFO pile. I have found I refined the finish one before starting a new one by occasionally getting on a UFO roll and finishing a few before starting something new (a UFO savings account!) and for a reason I have yet to discover, August has become a UFO-only month and I don’t count anything finished in August in the finish one/make a new one equation. But, August UFO’s have really helped reduce the Christmas gift making crunch!!

  • GayleZ
    Posted March 1, 2017 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

    once again thank you for some great tips, I will take on board your ideas and will book mark the tips for future reference.
    Have a great day
    Thanks again
    G

  • Maria E
    Posted March 2, 2017 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    This second post is as helpful as the first. I especially like the downsize idea, next would be the act of love idea and then the set aside time idea. I acquired several quilt tops from a friend who passed away about 3 years ago. I’m new to quilting but have completed a few as gifts to family and friends. I have a few I wasn’t sure what to do with but you’ve given me some very good ideas. I’ve also given some to my friend who introduced me to quilting since she works fulltime. She’s been able to complete them and give them as gifts as well.

  • Karen Seitz
    Posted March 5, 2017 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    There are so many fantastic ideas here! How did you come up with them all? I’m glad you did. :-)

  • Geralyn
    Posted March 9, 2017 at 5:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks for your tips. I’ve finished 3 out of 6 that needed binding. 3 mote to go then time to work on others that are not as far along!
    Thanks,
    Geralyn

  • Chris
    Posted March 13, 2017 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    What design is the white background block (with rainbow stripes)on the first UFO picture.?

    • Posted March 15, 2017 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

      Hi Chris – that block was one I designed for Quiltmaker’s 100 Blocks Volume 4 – issued in the winter of 2011. I’m not sure if you can get that magazine from Quiltmaker or not but you could check on their website.

  • Sandra Alderman
    Posted March 19, 2017 at 12:05 am | Permalink

    The quilting group I am a part of in Mount Gambier South Australia has decided to have a UFO challenge this year, so at our last meeting, we brought along a UFO to have photographed. The challenge being to finish it by the end of the year.
    I had been thinking of what to do when I had a UFO in my cupboard prick me so this is what I chose. Funnily enough, since then, I have finished 2 stitcheries I have been working on for sometime and assembled them with only the handstitching left to complete PLUS found a stitchery I had done some 10 years ago that I have also put together and fully completed
    Seems to me, this year will be the year of the completed UFOs by more than 1 person!!!☺☺☺

  • Judi Briley
    Posted July 4, 2017 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for sharing. These are all wonderful I ideas to help get my UFOs done.

  • Adrienne
    Posted December 9, 2017 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful help!! Thank you sooooo much.

  • Susie
    Posted June 24, 2018 at 10:15 am | Permalink

    The Lake County Quilters Guild in Mt. Dora, FL has a PhD program – – “projects half finished”. Our 2nd VP Libbey Wares organized it to encourage folks to finish their quilts. Members register for a “semester” and then present the finished projects at the end of the term. Prizes are given for AA, BA, MA and PhD levels determined by points earned for each level of work involved (just a binding, quilting and binding, finishing piecing, etc.). It’s been very popular and productive!

  • Anonymous
    Posted July 9, 2018 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so much for your great tips on finishing a project!!🤗

  • Lorraine Cooper
    Posted July 11, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Hi Jacqueline. I have three projects on the go. All cut and stacked in order just need to finish piecing.
    I have an issue with my health which prevents me from sitting too long or even simple things bending over, stretching to reach something. Getting to my craft room etc. Due partly to MS and also a bone marrow problem.

    I have a window of three days a week when I can sit down and work because Wednesday is chemo, Thursday is ewwww day. Friday is ok let’s do this, then I have to ask for help to get in to my wheelchair and over to my work station

    My beautiful work area filled with beautiful fabrics, pictures, and Royal Daulton, Wedgewood and many other pieces of bone china in an oak cabinet. One side of my dresser is full of my grans bone china from the 1920s plus pieces
    I have found on my travels. The other side is full of fabric. I am completely addicted to both sigh.

    Do you have any advice for me? I feel guilty that when I feel a bit better I am doing my craft when maybe I could dust or do something to help my husband.
    Lol he does tend to beg me not to help because I tend to drop carving knives and embed them in my foot (yep did that recently) or try to be independent and transfer to my chair myself but end up on the floor and the chair has whizzed in to the lounge!

    So it’s not that I don’t have the desire to finish I have to balance pain and pain meds with moving around and getting everything together I need.

    My craft group were trying to tell me to buy a machine to do cutting. Personally I love the satisfaction of doing things myself and wonder if it would just end up on a shelf gathering dust. I do have to have everything within reach that I use regularly.

    Sorry to keep moaning, I just need some validation or inspiration.

    Love your blog and more

    Lorraine

    • Posted July 12, 2018 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      Hi Lorraine! Thanks so much for taking the time to write!
      It sounds like you are facing a lot of challenges, but I’m sure that you find creativity and sewing to be good “therapy”! I certainly wouldn’t worry about the dusting- I think it’s more important to do something that makes you feel good and happy.

      Take your time with your projects, there is no race to be won. If you enjoy the cutting process, then by all means enjoy it. I would encourage you not to rush through your projects, but to just enjoy the process. You may not be able to complete them as quickly as others do, but that really doesn’t matter. Just have fun.

      Hope this helps, have a wonderful day!
      Jacquelynne

  • Carol mina
    Posted November 19, 2018 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    I try not to get too many projects going all at once. I do prioritize what I want to finish.

  • Posted January 15, 2019 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

    I am organized and have my UFOs in individual plastic bed sheet bags, with the idea to start this week the easiest one first.

  • Kathy Kauth
    Posted January 16, 2019 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Love the tips, it is so rewarding to finish a project. I enter three UFO’s a year with our quilt guild just to get some of them finished up.

  • Posted January 16, 2019 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Thank you so VERY much for the two articles on UFO’s of which I have some, er, lots! Love your ideas and the prod to get something done with them. I love your website and always try to read it before any other emails. PLEASE keep me going with all you ideas, patterns, projects and wonderful advice. Love ya!!

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