Tackling UFOs, part 2

Hi again! So yesterday I talked about making a brain-dump master list of all your quilting projects on the go, including even things you haven’t started but which are weighing on your mind, making you feel guilty and overwhelmed whenever you enter your sewing room. Fear not! Today we will make the first step toward conquering that sprawling list.

The other suggestion from yesterday was to get yourself an ordinary, inexpensive notebook. We’re going to need it today, as we start sorting our lists of UFOs.


masterlist.jpg(a) Enter the MasterList into your notebook

First of all, get your masterlist into your UFO notebook. You can take the time to rewrite the list onto the first page(s) of your book if you like, or just tape your list from yesterday (your printed out list, if you did it on computer) onto the first page(s) of your book. Make sure the items on your list are numbered, so you know how many there are! And leave at least one blank page after the list, so that you can add anything else you think of later, or can make adjustments to your list.

(b) Separate out “Ideas & Plans”

Ideas list.jpgFirst of all, let’s skim out anything that isn’t a true work in progress. Sometimes, I think of a pattern I’ve purchased, or a kit I already own, or some yardage I’ve bought with a project in mind as being a UFO – though technically, I haven’t started them yet. But I do want to keep track of these things – ideas, patterns, fabrics – that are in the queue at the back of my mind.

On a clean page in my UFO notebook, I entered the title “Ideas”. Under that title, I wrote out a numbered list of all these not-yet-started things, including projects that were literally nothing more than ideas. If I get more ideas, I can add them to this list, so I don’t forget about them.

I like this list because it gives me something to look forward to – projects on the horizon. It helps me feel like I’m not forgetting any inspirations.

Now, with a pen and ruler, turn back to your Master list and neatly stroke a line through any items on your list that have been transferred to the “Ideas & Plans” list.

(c) Separate out anything you don’t want to do anymore

It’s okay to admit that you have projects you simply don’t want to finish. Ever. Have you read the Marie Kondo book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing? Well, Kondo’s main premise is that you should only own things that “spark joy”. That’s how I feel about sewing. Life is short, and our time to sew is shorter. I went through my list and, using a pencil, put a star beside every project I wished I didn’t have to finish. Then I looked long and hard at each starred project.

Can it be simplified/downsized?

  • Say you planned to make a queen-sized quilt, but after 10 blocks, you’ve lost interest. Well, who says you have to finish it, as planned? Can you turn those blocks into a table runner or wall-hanging? Or alternate them with some plain squares of fabric and add a large border, to make a lap quilt or crib quilt? Yes, you may now have fabric left over that you won’t use, but that’s okay – return the leftover fabric to your stash. You’ll find another use for it.
  • Even a single block could be turned into a pillow, a mini quilt, a little table-topper, used as the front of a fabric notebook cover, use it as a medallion in the centre of a scrap quilt, or incorporated into the back of another quilt as a decorative element. I’ve seen decorating ideas, where someone has framed a single quilt block and hung it on the wall!

How about giving it away, donating it, or swapping it?

  • One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, right? Sometimes quilters I know will bring their partially completed projects to guild meeting or sewing circle, and leave them on a table marked as “free to a good home”. Rather than have the project sit in your cupboard another 10 years, wouldn’t it be better for someone else to finish it and put it into use? At my guild, one member organized a UFO swap – everyone brought in a UFO they didn’t want to finish, and went home with a different UFO!
  • There are also charity sewing groups, church groups, etc. who will gladly accept your unwanted UFOs (and also unwanted fabric or other sewing supplies).

idea and donate (1).jpgOn my list, I was able to downsize several projects, trade away two, and donate three to charity groups. I can’t tell you how good it felt – like a burden lifted from my shoulders – to be free of UFOs I didn’t want to finish!

On your master list, use a pen and ruler to cross off any UFOs you’ve given away. If you’ve decided to redefine a UFO (turn it into something else, or make it simpler) you can either make a little note beside the existing entry, if you have space – or cross off the original entry, then add the redefined project to the end of the master list.

Hopefully, you are now left with a list of true UFOs that you actually want to finish. Projects that, in Marie Kondo’s words, spark joy. Tomorrow, we can look at STEP FOUR: PRIORITIZING THE LIST.



3 thoughts on “Tackling UFOs, part 2

  1. Tackling UFOs, part 3 – Patchwork Tomato

  2. Tackling UFOs, part 4 – Patchwork Tomato

  3. Strategy for tackling UFOs! – Patchwork Tomato

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