The Free Motion Quilting Project: UFO Sunday #8 - Work Harder to Make Them Easier

Sunday, October 14, 2012

UFO Sunday #8 - Work Harder to Make Them Easier

So last week I got a lot of mixed messages in the comments when I gave everyone permission to "trash your UFOs."  Mostly everyone was cheesed off about "wasting" so much hard work and valuable fabric.

Note here: creating is never a waste.  We start projects because we want to and for whatever reason they get set aside.  Dumping these projects is never a waste because the lessons learned and skills gained are ours to enjoy.  So don't sweat the guilt if you need to dump, or burn a particularly monstrous UFO.  You've got my back!

But just in case you do have tons of stuff you can't throw away but would prefer to pass on to a good cause, I started the Charity Link Up, which is for charities that will truly take any project in any state of completion.

I'm extremely glad I started this link up because it sort of explains my hang up about passing along UFOs - hardly ANY charities will take them.

Most quilting charities are focused on sending finished quilts to people in need.  They don't want our 30 half pieced sawtooth star blocks or our partially finished double wedding ring.  They want the finished quilt, with binding, and their branded tag while you're at it.

I'm not against quilt charities per-say, but I have issues with how difficult they can make it help out.  I remember bringing a quilt to guild once and having it measured and rejected for not being the "right size" for the charities we donated to.  It's a frigging quilt right!?  What does it matter?!

I really appreciate Jacob, Janie, and Margret's Hope Chest being willing to take ANYTHING from quilters around the world.  This takes guts, it's takes stamina, and more than anything else, it takes true passion to turn all this unfinished nothing into finished something that will help someone (or some animal) in need.

There was also a lot of mention and question about enabling.  By encouraging you to trash or pawn off UFOs, am I just encouraging you to drop what bothers you to start new projects that make you feel better?

No.  That is not what I'm saying.  I encourage you to drop, trash, mail out, or pass on the projects you JUST CAN'T FINISH.

These are projects that are so mired with issues, flaws, deeper meaning, and screaming tantrums that you just can't stand them anymore.  They are projects you have no passion for, no desire to see completed.

For all the other projects, you need to own up, pull on your big girl (boy) panties, grit your teeth, and stitch through it.

And that is exactly what I did this week.  The 365 quilt has been a real beast in my closet.  I haven't had the time to work on it lately, and even when I did, I didn't want to work on it.

Why?  Because it was seriously hurting my hands every time I worked on it.

I'm 29 years old, but even I get pain in my fingers if I work too long at a project that strains the muscles in my hands and fingers.  I realized I didn't want to work on this project because it always left a dull ache in my hands and wrists.

So this week on my UFO day, I spent the entire day working hard to make the rest of this project go easier.

free motion quilting | Leah Day

I machine basted down every single piece of binding so now I don't have to hold the binding down tightly to the quilt with one hand while stitching with the other.  I can bind easily and pull out the orange basting stitches as I go, making the entire project more comfortable and enjoyable to work on.

As a UFO goes, this quilt is MINE and not something I could ever pass on to someone else to finish.  But it also hasn't been easy to keep at this project because it's so huge and been so overwhelming at times.

You might have a UFO in your closet that feels this way.  If you really can't handle it, you can pass it on and you'll never receive judgement from me about it.

But if that's not an option, if you really, really want it finished, you can take a day to look at it and try to find the thing that is making it just so difficult and painful to work on.

Spend a day knocking that one thing out, or making it smaller, or easier to bear, and the entire project will feel lighter and easier to work on.

So this week work with diligence.  Work with dedication and intent to make the projects you have easier to finish.  Work harder today to make what you do tomorrow a bit easier.

Instructions for Linking Up Your Blog or online photo:

1. Write your blog post. Publish it on your blog.  If you're linking up a photo, first upload it to Flickr or Facebook.

2. Copy the link of the specific blog post. This is not just the link to your blog itself (, but the link to the specific post:

3. Click the blue link up button above and paste your link into the box.

If you have any questions about finishing your UFO, make sure to post them clearly within your post.  5 questions will be selected and answered on Monday or Tuesday's UFO Followup article.

By the way, if you'd like to share this program on your blog, grab a button below!

UFO Sundays on the Free Motion Quilting Project
Let's go quilt!



  1. I quilted my first quilt by machine this week. I've had this fabric collected for 3 or 4 years and recently got the initiative to make the quilt I bought it for.

    Normally I am not confident of my machine quilting and I do simple quilting by hand, but this time I went for it and it went pretty well for a first effort!

    I have a local group--a guild that makes quilts for charity and Quilts of Valor who will take anything --fabric, blocks, tops, anything and they will finish them and find a home for them. I gave away four large trash bags of bits and pieces and a lot of fabric I no longer love to them and they were happy to get it. One of the ladies is a long arm quilter and she called me and asked "are you SURE you don't want the finished top you gave us?"

  2. I thought what you did with the quilt was beautiful and brave. It touched me deeply that you would share that with everyone.

  3. Good for you for figuring out a way to protect your hands. I also have hand issues, and though not as young as you (I'm 44), I still have a whole lot of living to do (I hope). It's so important to protect our health!!

  4. what I find funny is the people who say you can't or shouldn't throw out or give away your UFO's think they are going to outlive their stash. AS a Binky patrol coordinator, I have received those phone calls saying 'my mother passed away and I don't know what to do with her stuff!" Life is too short to spend our fun time working on projects that aren't fun anymore! The only reason I didn't like up was because I have so many local donations, I didn't want to be greedy. I also understand about you trying to donate and having your quilt rejected. Seems like the quilt police are everywhere, especially in the charity quilting circle.

  5. Sometimes it is just right to trash something (I've only done it once so far!) But it is others response to it that was so funny. It was only one block and I cut it up into little pieces as it was really badly made and had a bad history attached to it (fight with a friend). When I told my best friend about it she said get rid of it, but as I cut it up another quilter was saying noooo! Save the fabric, unpick it! Some times it is just right to trash something as my best friend said it was keeping a bad memory alive.

  6. I really liked your response to the notion that it is a "waste" of good materials to discard that which is dragging a body down......In that dialog the intangible was forgotten by some (that the skill(s) learned during the assembly are acquired and "stored" for future use/honing) and that can never be considered a total loss/waste/discard. The "angels" who take those orphan blocks and UFOs are truly that-angels-and I thank you for the link. Blessings,Doreen

  7. I wasn't cheesed off at all. Makes me feel better that somebody agrees that I can chuck it! If it is mine, and I don't want to give it to a charity for whatever reason, that is my perogative, my freedom, my choice. It's nice to know there are charities out there that will take my partial projects, but it is still my choice.

  8. I recently moved my sewing room to to a larger area. During the move I discovered things (fabric books and just stuff) I don't even remember buying. I took the opportunity to sort everything. I filled a couple of bags of donations and phoned a couple of quilt guilds....with my offerings. They accepted and I delivered them. I think this was a win win deal.
    I am cleansed, they are happy. It worked for everyone.


  9. There are also those blocks that you've made in a class only to realize you don't like them that and will never finish them.

    The church where my guild meets recently started to take UFO's and are putting them together prayer quilt style. I think that's great, really assauages the guilt!

  10. Great idea about basting down the binding and then removing and love the orange thread idea as well!

  11. Wow! people need to lighten up, and do what's right for them. If you want to save your UFOs or send them to someone else to finish, whatever works for you. Honestly, I'm glad there's folks out there that take "trash" and make "treasure" let's shut up and go quilt!! :)

  12. I have only two unfinished quilt tops but I feel that finishing them would be more wasteful than tossing them. Why spend money on backing fabric and batting (not to mention my precious time) to finish something that I hate? They look like crap and I never donate crap. I only donate things I am proud of. When you've made as many quilts as I have, you realize that some are simply going to fail. That's life. I quilt for the process anyway and once it's no longer fun, that's it for me. Time to move on!

  13. It makes me happy to see people being's so true that we learn by our projects, but on some of them the lessons come harder, and it's just best to let someone else use our work, and move on to something that gives us joy. Isn't that what all this creative energy is about? LOL That's what keeps me sketching in my notebook, and coming back to my stash and my machine with a smile in my heart!

  14. I think the "trash your stuff" topic is all what you want to make of it. I personally wasn't cheesed off at anyone. I just wanted to offer another perspective. My quilt was ugly, I truly wasn't enjoying it in any way, I wanted to trash it! BUT . . . I found a way to shed a more positive light on it by finishing it to donate. That worked for me. I shared that in the hopes that it might give some others a different, more positive way to look at their unwanted UFO's too.

    Trash your stuff if you so choose. Won't make the tiniest difference to my life if you do. But if you did finish it, it might make a huge difference in someone else's life. And that would also make a huge difference in your life. Not saying you have to do it, not saying you're a bad person if you don't. It's simply something to think about.

    And if you can't find an organization who will take it, then take it to a nearby church. I guarantee you they will know someone in the community who would love to have that quilt! :-)

  15. Here in the UK you can take old clothing and textiles to the Red Cross charity shop and they get money for them from the rag man (Textile recycling company). All my scraps and offcuts and old bras and T shirts go there and you know it's doing some good somewhere. I think it's eventually shredded to make stuff like carpet underlay.

  16. Great post, we all have strong feelings on this subject. It took me too long to grasp the importance of moving on, and dealing with the detritus of the move asap.
    Kudos to you for learning this early on :))

  17. Thankyou so much Leah for this blog. I have had this philosophy for years. Why waste energy and time on something that has no meaning to you any more.

    I have now stated to cut, slash, burn and re dye quilts that I do not like any more and it is liberating. I love having the freedom to be creative and to push myself in a new directions that I would have never gone before. I have often thrown stuff out at the end of the process, but what learning and what a process it was!!

    Learning is all about failures and sucesses. We can't have one without the other. What do you think Thomas Edison did with all his many failures?.......he probably pulled it apart and tried something new or threw it out. How are we any different.

  18. I too have a TON of UFO's - I am revisiting them and deciding which ones I will finish and re-purpose some and some..well....some just have to go. I have a friend who lives in a very rural area and can't get to a town very often that has quilting fabric and I have a box that I pack for her every now and then. I just sent her a pkg. of Christmas fabric...I just have more than I will ever use. Another project on my list is to get back to practicing free motion quilting..Thanks for all your videos and patterns.. I enjoy your blog and all the information you pass along to us.

  19. Leah,

    There are groups such as the Binky Patrol that do take partially completed quilts, fabric, whatever. I believe the Linus Project does also. They are grateful for whatever they can get. They make quilts to benefit sick, abused and neglected children and adults.


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