What Do Our Quilt UFOs Say About Us?

The Quilt Notebook

Last week, we made a list in our Quilt Notebooks of every  one of our UFOs (Unfinished Object or Unfinished Quilt).   See more HERE.    This list should include everything… from table runners to king-sized quilts and hexies to Baltimore Album quilts. How many projects did you list?   If you’ve been quilting a long time, you may have required several pages to list all of the quilts.    Now ask yourself:  Is the number of unfinished projects within MY “comfort zone”?   If you are uncomfortable with the number of projects that you’ve abandoned, perhaps it’s time to do a bit of evaluation..

Every quilt begins as a wish, a Great Idea, a Grand Plan.  Every quilt in our cupboards began as a quilt we really wanted to make and COMPLETE.  We  have already spent a great deal of our resources–both time and money-on these projects!  So why are they now relegated to the bottom of a plastic bin, the back of a closet, or some scary corner in the basement?         The question we must ask ourselves is:

What happened between The Great Idea and the time it was tossed aside?  To answer this question, we have to go back to the beginning…

For each quilt on your “Unfinished” list,  write down the origin of the quilt... Answer the question:  What made me start this project?  What was your inspiration?  What was your Great Idea for this project?

  • Did you chose/buy the projects yourself?
  • Did you acquire the quilt from someone else’s unfinished pile?
  • Did you inherit the quilt from a relative?
  • Did you buy  the quilts, fabric, kits because they were on sale?
  • Did you start the quilt at a workshop or retreat?
  • Did you see the quilt at a store and immediately buy the pattern and all the fabric to make it?
  • Is the quilt a group project?

The Quilt Notebook

Once you have a clear understanding of why you started your quilt projects, we can look at why we let each project languish.

For each quilt or project on your list, ask yourself (and write down)  Why have I not finished this quilt?  Some questions to consider:

  • Did I stop work on this quilt because I didn’t like it anymore?
  • Did I stop work on this quilt because I saw something new I liked?
  • Do I like the planning and buying phases of quilting better than the quilt-making?
  • Do I lack a necessary skill to continue with this quilt?
  • Did something go wrong along the way causing me to dread work on this project?
  • Was I required to work on a quilt with a deadline (like a baby or wedding quilt) and then forgot about this quilt?
  • Is there a part of quilting I don’t like at all?
  • Did I put this quilt in a box during a move and just forget about it?
  • Do I over estimate the amount of time I can spend on quilting?
  • Do I underestimate the amount of time each quilt project requires?

The answers to these questions should offer some clues about our long list of incomplete projects.

It is through our Quilt Notebooks that we will be able to see trends in our work and buying habits over time.

One thing that I believe is universal to all quilters:

 We all underestimate the time it takes to create a quilt (including the time required to learn the skills.)

Now two questions remain…(Coming soon to a blog near you…)

What should I do with my current UFOs?

We will discuss ways to move the UFOs to our “Works in Progress” list, re-purpose unfinished projects, re-work quilts,  and give away quilts…

How can I avoid adding any more UFOs and banish this problem forever?

 We will discuss ways to avoid impulse buys, the art of saying “no thank you” and other ways to keep our quilt projects manageable.

Next week:  Setting priorities: Moving UFOs to the WIP list…

The Quilt Notebook

Your  Quilt Notebook Assignment this week:
For every project on your “Unfinished” list, answer two questions:

Why did I start this project?

Why have I not finished this quilt?

Good Luck,


All images, tutorials and information is the property of Lori Kennedy at The Inbox Jaunt and for personal use only.  You are welcome to Pin and re-blog with attribution to The Inbox Jaunt.  For all other purposes, contact me at lckennedy@hotmail.com.  Thank you!

You might also like:

Choosing A Quilt Notebook 

Reasons to Begin a Quilt Notebook and Information to Include




36 thoughts on “What Do Our Quilt UFOs Say About Us?

  1. First off BRR!! AGAIN! Wish the weather would give you guys a break…more than one day that is!!
    I realized right away listing my UFO’s that I got hung up on lots of them at the borders…color, size, two…one…confusing! And back then on the old ones teaching myself didn’t have the resourses then to just “google it”. All these years later I still seem to struggle with the borders…is there a rule of thumb or is it all personal preference or maybe something you get better at as time goes by and I get hung up on the width of them too. ?? I was kind of surprised to find that this was the roadblock I hit on several of my projects. I suppose because I hardly ever use a pattern and never taken a class I didn’t know if there were rules to this.
    I will be needing the buyers remorse lesson too…I have purchased several and haven’t started cuz now don’t like the pattern but now have the kit with all the odd pieces of fabric so my head said I can just draw my own so now we hit the time factor. 🙂
    I like this notebook….
    stay warm!!

    • When I began quilting over 40 years ago all quilts had borders and there were a lot of “rules”. However, we have thankfully moved away from the notion that all quilts are links to the past. The quilt police are a dying breed (except at quilt shows) and I think you should make your quilt however you want. A lot of quilters are leaving off the borders and their quilts are lovely. Quilting is a joyful activity, so if you want borders, make borders you love and if you don’t want borders, leave them off. Don’t let the belief that your quilt has to live up to someone else’s expectation keep you from experiencing the joy of completing your project. Happy quilting.

      • !!!!! Thanks Donna so much for taking the time to share your thoughts! 🙂 I do need to just do what I like…you are right. Can’t wait to get home and tackle a couple! happy quilting back 🙂

  2. This is a great analysis to do with all unfinished projects — UFO’s, WIPs, WISPS and even the HSY’s (“Hussies” — Haven’t Started Yet). For me, most times I stop for a combination of I’m anxious about the next step and something new (and seemingly easier) pops up (“I’ll just knock this new project right out and then get back to the other one”). Reviewing the “why did I stop/not start” after a time away often reveals a former mountain now reduced to a molehill and wonderful project waiting to be rejoined!

  3. Thank you so much for this UFO project. We tried to get control of it in our guild last year. Our project chairman asked us to write down a UFO on each of 12 index cards. She then took them up and at each guild meeting, we drew one of our cards and were supposed to finish that project during the next month. I think only about 30% of the UFO’s got done. For my work, there is an assortment of gift kits from secret sister, name drawn at Christmas and annual Birthday Bash. Also a friend “discovered” a quilt top in a thrift store, rescued it and gave it to me..I appreciate the thoughts but
    these are not my taste and they will be charity quilts if I can ever get them finished.
    Being over age 70 and married almost 50 years, we have all the bedding we can ever use plus quilts i inherited. My joy is making charity quilts and providing for our grandchildren. I cannot afford to have all these quilts finished by a long arm sewer. Thus I am thrilled to find this blog, which will help me to finish/quilt them myself on my own sewing machine. Thanks again Lori. This evaluation process is already helping
    me set priorities. Reminds me of that old song. “I can see clearly now….” ..la ti da ! LOL

  4. Oh Brrrrr. I don’t just have unfinished quilts, though I hope the fleece thing counts for me, I have so many unfinished crewels and crochet and knitting projects that I am about to start handing them to siblings and children to finish. Really it is time I share more. HA!

  5. This is so helpful! Thank you very much, Lori. Subfreezing is one thing, below zero is another, but minus 37 degrees is: we-need-more-quilts weather, so we at least have the comfort of quilting away on our UFQ’s.

    I need a 12 step program for addiction to collecting HSY’s. The colors, the designs, the patterns! Anything sparks me to add another HSY to my huge collection.

    I recently learned that a habit can be broken in one month, of course the possessor of the habit does the requisite work. Your quilt notebook idea is a valid tool in the hands of that person.

    Best wishes for warmth and construction of UFO’s as you wait out this Polar event!

    • Marianne, perhaps we could start a program…the reason I have so much to say on this topic I have amassed an enormous collection as well! I really doubt we can break all of our habits in one month…maybe we could break them FOR one month?! That leaves the rest of the year for shop-hops, retreats, etc…?

  6. I have sixteen UFO.some I am donating to our modern quilt guilds yard sale.It a great cause and I can remove some guilt at the same time.

    • Honnah, Make sure you take pictures of your quilts before you give them away. We are going to study all of our quilts to see why some work and some did not. Also, beware the guild sale–be careful what you buy!!?? LOL!

  7. I think the approach you are taking to UFO’s is going to be much more helpful to me. I have read short articles numerous times in the past that tell me to take out all my projects and look at them. Then donate, recycle, or gift those I don’t think I will ever finish. Those articles didn’t help. I still have my UFO’s. But I think if I can analyze why I bought them, why I started them and why I did not complete them, then I could actually donate, recycle or gift them. Thanks.

  8. Hi Lori,
    I would like to start a quilt notebook and follow your blog…I am wondering where you purchased your notebook. Would you mind sharing?
    -4 here with wind chills of -26 below in Plainfield, IL
    Thanks, joyce

    • Hi Joyce, I grew up in LaGrange, IL. I’ve been to Plainfield! One of my frustrations is that I have several notebooks. The one in the photos today was a Piccadilly Notebook from Barnes and Noble. I think they still carry them. It says http://www.piccadilly.com on the inside cover. It’s a bound notebook with graph paper. I think I’m going to use a 3 ring binder going forward for more flexibility. Hope that helps!

  9. I have been using looseleaf binders to hold plastic sheet covers. Patterns and notes go inside the covers. But in a hurry, I just poke things in there and now they need to be sorted and organized.. Ice storm is on the way here in south GA tomorrow It will be good time to do that as I have only about 2 hours to go to finish the top I am working on. Blessings to all those stuck in bad weather areas and to the lady who wrote in from Valdez.

      • Me, too ! Actually I have spent most of Jan in my flannels and sewing !! We live in rural area and might lose power. I wasn’t worried about cooking, just sewing..LOL.
        I only have a border to finish in the morning and that makes 3 tops for me this month. Too cold to go out to the cottage studio to quilt them yet. At 3 years, I am starting to lose my beginner status. This cold weather helped me stay at it.Blessings…Marta

      • No electricity–that would be too much! I guess we should count our blessings! We do have quilts to keep us warm and our sewing machines. I keep thinking how horrible it would be for the pioneers!

      • So far the ice is still 30 miles north of us. We spent the day getting water stored in jugs, checking for batteries, etc…Even after living in FL for 35 years before retirement, prepping isn’t routine..I made 3 gal coffee and tea, opened some cans of food for the frig in case..Freezer full of ice.. so we got prepared. Then I sewed and finished the border on the latest charity quilt… for the Lydia House project in upper GA, a house where breast cancer “fighters” can stay while going thru treatment. I am so thrilled to have these free motion ideas/photos, etc, Lori. Thank you again. Now my quilts can be pretty instead of ..uh… perfunctory ! I am going to be brave and start using pretty threads too. I think that is what is wrong with some of my UFO’s. They weren’t getting a look to them that had been in my head. Now I know what some of them need to become grown ups ! And my SpouseMan presented me with an acrylic extension table for birthday and Christmas. He got his own laptop too and this one
        will move in to my sewing area..look at the monitor, look at the machine.. etc…Gee I wish I had 40 more years in front of me ! Lori, I hope your work will still be available
        when my granddaughter inherits all my equipment.. I promise to stop writing long posts now…:) Retired?NOT ..since I found quilting..in south GA

      • Marta, I can’t believe what you are going through! It must be nerve-wracking to prepare for this storm. And yet…you still stitched. Women have been using quilting to calm their nerves for hundreds of years! You are in our prayers! Keep us posted…

      • There are hundreds of USA folks without electricity/heat..My nerves are calmed by the Lord. Let us pray also for those folks in worse situations..My cousin’s elementary age children in north AL are spending the night in their school. They have no sewing machines ! LOL We have several junior members in our guild…ages 9-14. They really do sew their own quilts..Thank you for your concern. It is very appreciated.
        My husband said I better be careful, I might spend more time on The Inbox Jaunt than at the sewing machine… NO danger of that! 🙂 but I do love it here.You are such in inspiration.

  10. I presently have over 300 ufo’s. I have been keeping a list for about 20 years now. Some are quilts, some are garments, some are costumes. Some are nearly finished, some are in the planning phase; most of the time I get interrupted by an illness and then it is difficult to get back to what I was doing; sometimes I get swamped with client jobs. A few years ago I cleaned out all the projects I had completely lost interest in and donated them to the quilt guild. They finished them as charity projects. I have no guilt about my ufos. DaVinci died with over 900 unfinished objects in his lab, so I’m in good company. 🙂 (I’m a technology newbie so I don’t know how to insert a smiley face in the text.)

  11. I have been following your blog with great interest. First off, I love the free motion quilting tutorials. I find that having some lines or shapes to follow is extremely helpful. So, thank you for that. Secondly I have bought a quadrille lined notebook and have begun a list of UFOs on scrap paper. This morning the number was up to 15. I was feeling overwhelmed by that number until I read Donna’s post above. The good news is that I have pulled one of the projects out and have begun working on it again in earnest. And as I list the various UFOs understanding about my thought and work processes is beginning to creep in just with listing the name of the project. Again, thank you for the idea of doing this.

    Over at St. Louis Folk Victorian, Kristi wrote about the “War on WIPs” or WOW for short. She calls her UFOs “works in progress” or WIPs. You can check out her post here: http://stlouisfolkvictorian.blogspot.com/2014/01/war-on-wip-wow-for-short.html.

  12. This post has really called me into action! Thanks so much for putting this list together and being the inspiration I need to identify my UFOs and, actually, DO SOMETHING about them. I am grateful, Lori; GREAT POST and series!

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