The Free Motion Quilting Project: UFO Sunday #1: One Step at a Time

Sunday, August 26, 2012

UFO Sunday #1: One Step at a Time

free motion quilting | Leah Day
It's UFO time!  It's high time we made an official stab at pulling out all our UnFinished Objects and getting them finished!

Already this new program has generated a lot of questions, mostly about how we're defining a UFO.  I've thought about this quite a bit and decided this is the definition we're going to work with:

A UFO is any project you have left and must return to.

That's pretty simple, right?  It's any project you've made some start to - picked out fabric colors, cut out pieces, began sewing blocks, etc, but you stopped working on it and have left it alone for some time.

free motion quilting | Leah DayNo, I personally don't think UFOs are only dusty quilt tops on a shelf you haven't touched in 5 years, though those would certainly be a good choice to start with!

This week I worked on a UFO that's pinned to my design wall that I look at every single day, but I haven't touched in 3 months.  It's still a UFO because it's unfinished and I must return to it.

It is the returning factor that is important here.  Returning feels pretty distinctive and not always pleasant. 

When you start a project, you have the pumped up, excited, adrenaline feeling of starting something new.  You're ready to go and enthusiastic about working on the new project!

But if you stop working on a project, if you get bogged down about it and for whatever reason walk away from it, the feeling of returning to it is very different.

Put it this way - no one ever walks into a quilt store and says "I need to buy some fabric I'll cut up and stuff into a bin for the next 3 years!"

No, we buy fabric and cut it up with the best intentions.  Now we just need to return to those intentions, pull out those projects and decide what is worth finishing and what needs to go.

Oh boy...did I really say that?!

Yes, you need to DECIDE what you WANT to finish and what quilts are not worth your time.  Time is a precious resource and it doesn't make sense to waste time working on a project you hate.

So this week take a look at your list of UFOs.  What is the one you want to work on least?  Ask yourself why.

Is it the construction?  Can the quilt be fixed or repaired?  What bothers you most about this project?

It might be a good idea to take 30 minutes to journal about the project.  Write down your feelings and dig into the emotion behind it.

Yes, abandoning and returning to a project is emotional.  You might find projects you can't return to because of issues beyond the fabric and thread.  That project may have been started right before a difficult time in your life and looking at it reminds you of that time.  This has certainly happened to me with Sinkhole, which is why that quilt ended up being caught on fire.

As for what to do with quilts you just can't finish, consider donating them to your local quilt guild for charity quilts.  Another alternative would be to sell it on Ebay.  Sometimes the best thing to do when a project gets too heavy and bogged down is to release it to someone else who doesn't feel the same way about it.

But of course not all UFO quilts are like this!  Sometimes a quilt is a UFO simply because you haven't had the time to finish it, or there's a bit of construction that's intimidating.  That's been my case with this 365 quilt:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

What's the problem with this quilt?  There's really two problems: 1. it needs to be pieced together, then finished by hand, 2. I have no idea how the borders are going to work.

So here's a short video about this quilt and how I decided to work on it this week:

As you can see in the video, the 365 quilt is in a real state of disarray.  I have one huge panel put together, but the other strips are stuck to the design wall needing to be put together.

I only had a few hours to work on this quilt and began putting the strips together.  After 3 strips were together, I realized this wasn't a very logical way to proceed with this UFO.

Here's why: if I walked out of the room, I'd have another big panel of strips put together, but also still a mishmash of unprepared strips with no binding.  It would still be an overwhelming monster and not something I'd feel excited about working on.

So I simply focused on completing the most basic step: I attached binding to all the strips.

When I left the room yesterday, it looked like this:

free motion quilting | Leah Day

With all the binding attached, suddenly this quilt doesn't feel so time consuming to work on anymore.  When I walked into the room today, I could see how easy and fast it would be to get these strips together and be able to get this quilt off the wall.  Suddenly the excitement is back!

No, I still don't know how I'm going to deal with the borders of this quilt, but I really shouldn't be worrying about it right now.  This quilt needs loads of hand work to be completed before the borders will be attached, and hopefully during that time I'll figure that step out.

So I hope this story helps you see how to proceed with a UFO you have in progress this week.  I really hope this new program helps us all to tackle our unfinished projects and make a solid stab at getting them finished.

Sometimes you just have to pull it out and get it through 1 single step.  Just get the blocks together, or get the blocks connecting into strips, or get the quilt basted.  It doesn't have to be a huge step, but a step in the right direction.

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's UFO advice 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
Time for me to shut up and go quilt,

Leah Day


  1. So pleased you're doing this, Leah. Perfect timing for me. For one reason and another, I didn't get past no.13 of the Quilt Along and just this week decided to get back to it, and to use what I learn to finish some of my UFOs. I made a list of them at the beginning of this year and since then I've finished 4 of them and made progress on several others. Great to be able to combine a
    Quilt Along catch-up with this new project!

  2. Hello- Love the idea of UFO Sunday. Does the project have to be specifically quilting related or could it be related to sewing. for example, I finally archived my vintage patterns and cleaned the sewing room, or used my wool stash to make a skirt. I have plenty of quilting related UFOs as well but I thought I would ask.

  3. Foster - I think that's just fine. Not all my UFOs are quilting, in fact I have a few jewelry and crochet UFOs that need to be finished now that I think about it. Anything unfinished you're working to return to!



  4. I'm excited you're including other art forms for the UFOs...I have a lot of knitting projects that need to be finished too!

  5. Great idea! I have plenty of UFOs to choose from, somewhere around 100. I have finished a few since the last count, but under your definition I can add a dozen more that weren't on my list.

    I'm not linking up this week because I'm not working on anything sewing-wise. I'm too busy in the garden and keeping up with the harvest. (That project won't end until snow flies.)

    Maybe next week.

  6. I love the idea too. By the way, I've always known UFO to stand for, Unfinished Fiber Object." Either way, I'm there.

    A question: Do we need to blog about the project we're going to tackle that week? I'm asking because the one I'm planning on trying to finish, "Morning After the Storm," has appeared in my blog more than a few times. I think even you left a (very nice) comment about it. Would my readers become ill if they saw it rear its Storm at Sea head one more time? Then again, it was quite a while ago. If you get a moment, please let me know your thoughts.
    Hugs,and thanks for all you do,
    Tina in San Diego

  7. Hey Tina - Really it's entirely up to you. Linking your blog, even the older posts about your quilt, will bring more quilters to your site to leave comments, share advice, and interact with you.

    I'd personally say you'll probably get more advice and support with a fresh blog post, but you know a photo posted to flickr or facebook can also work.

    I can't wait to see your storm at sea! It really is a beautiful pattern.


  8. I have mostly finished quilt tops that just need to be quilted .... last time I checked (which was several years ago) I had almost 30 ..... eeek! I didn't finish them because I couldn't afford to send them all out to be quilted and I was afraid that I would ruin them if I tried to quilt them myself.

    Luckily I recently found your website and have gotten up the courage to quilt them myself. The first one I did was a shop sample for the local quilt shop. I had to keep mumbling to myself, "You will only get better if you keep quilting." and "If you can't see the mistake from the back of a galloping horse, your quilting is fine! LOL!"

    I don't have a blog (maybe I should start one) so can't post photos but I used Stippling in the blocks (a modified Cathedral window block) and Wiggly Wavy Lines in the inner border. I want to kill myself now because for some reason I decided to quilt the small flower pattern that is on the batik fabric that I used for my outer border(7.5"). This is going to take forever.

    Thank you, Leah, for giving me the confidence to finally try to quilt my own quilts. I have gotten positive reactions so far. Thanks.

  9. Sorry my post is on a Friday-- but we are camping on Sunday-- but Sarah's quilt will be a UFO for more than one week! I have several other UFOs & I'm way behind for many reasons-- but Sarah really does need her quilt. I'm the o ly one on either side of the family that quilts :)


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