The Free Motion Quilting Project: UFO Sunday #7 - UFOs are Talking to Me

Sunday, October 7, 2012

UFO Sunday #7 - UFOs are Talking to Me

So it's been 7 weeks on our UFO busting spree and how are things going for you?  Still cracking out projects left and right?  Snowballing your way to UFO freedom?

I admit to a bit of 1 step forward, 1 step back.  While yes, I have finished many UFOs over the last few weeks, some of the big guys remain clogging up my sewing room and weighing down my life.  It's time I come clean.  Hi. My name is Leah. I have a UFO problem.

Am I insane to admit that my UFOs are talking to me? 

I know this sounds really weird, but hear me out.  I swear there are some projects that yell with a loud voice, demanding to be finished, and others that just whisper nasty insults, and yet others that lay on the guilt like spreading softened butter on bread.

Case in point: James's Space Quilt hasn't been basted, despite ample opportunity to take the quilt to the next level, despite plenty of time to get it done, here it is:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
I didn't even bother to fold it.  I just threw it in a pile on the corner of my sewing table and left it there.  Every time I walk into the studio it asks "When are you going to finish me?  By the time your son turns 6 or 16?  Common girly, what's the hold up?"

And there's the 365 quilt which I was making pretty good progress on until I started waking up at 5 am and going to bed at 9 pm, thereby killing all my usual evening handwork time.

free motion quilting | Leah Day
 It seems to whisper "finish me...finish need to finish MUST finish me..." in all hours of the day and night.  I might go a few days forgetting about this quilt, only to be reminded the second I stitch anything by hand.

And then there's the voices of the patterns and books I haven't written yet, but are in some form of planning or construction. All the businessy things that I've said I will do, but haven't yet gotten around to.

Some are obvious and generate questions and comments often - like the How Do I Quilt This Series for which I never finished the final set of videos.  That final quilt - the show quilted version - is still unfinished and sitting in a bin upstairs.

It's not easy to have your UFOs so blatantly obvious to the world.  It's like getting a monthly email reminder of the number of UFOs in your closet and asking exactly when you plan to finish them, or worse - WHERE is the finished quilt?  You SAID you would make it, so where is it!?  It tends to make me feel like a failure.

These projects shout at me, usually nasty insults.  "So when are you going to finish this project?!  People are EXPECTING it to be released soon.  You promised.  You gave your word.  Are you just going try to wiggle out of it and pretend it never happened?  How pathetic!"

Am I crazy, or do you too hear the voices of your UFOs bouncing around your head?

It might not even be a voice, but the weight of so much left undone.

I know from practicing yoga that intention is a powerful thing.  When we start a project, we set an intention to see that project through to the end.

I don't know anyone who buys fabric saying "Gosh, this would make such a beautiful UFO for my closet shelf!"

So whether we realize it or not, when we start a project, we WANT to finish that project. But then, for whatever complicated reason it doesn't happen.

And the weight builds.  And the expectation.  And the guilt.

All the excitement and joy of starting something new gets bogged down with the intense weight of so much left undone.  I now see my unfinished objects as small time bombs - chaos creators - that are constantly ticking away, adding to my daily frustration and anxiety.

Am I insane to hear the voices of my UFOs?  Maybe.

But I now have a goal for my sewing room.  It's a simple goal.  It might require some drastic action - some destruction, some trashing of perfectly good projects, some wanton waste of fabric and thread.  There will be few survivors and many casualties.

But end the end, I will find what I seek in my sewing room: silence.

The peace of no projects yelling at me.  The lightness of no weight on my shoulders.  This is my goal.

Since starting this UFO Sunday project, I've received a lot of emails about trashing UFOs.  Mostly quilters asking for my permission:

Is it really okay for me to throw away this project that is making me feel guilty?

There's a part of me that doesn't feel like it's my place to give this permission.  That these words of clemency should come from within yourself.

But then all I have to do is remember the Sewing Machine Review, or the How Do I Quilt This Series, or my original Volume 1 and Volume 2 books and DVDs (all horribly public UFOs) and I know exactly what relief it would be to no longer have to answer to these projects failures. So...

Yes.  Please.  Throw it away.  If that project is beyond redemption, if it is making you feel terrible and you wish you'd never started it, and you don't even remember WHY you started it, and you have absolutely NO desire to finish it, do the world a favor:

Throw that bitch in the trash and wash your hands of it.

 I can hear all your "buts" already:

But it cost so much money!
But the fabric is so beautiful!
But it feels so wasteful!

Yes, you will feel and think these things, as I think them myself.  Will we be forever consigned to a prison of weight and guilt?  Will there never be a movement of peaceful silence without the reminder of all those projects left undone.

If you can, pass your Unfinishable Unfinished Projects (UUPs) on to someone who can finish them for charity or themselves with no weight or guilt or any of the bad feelings bogging you down.   

Here's a list of linked up charities that have indicated they are comfortable taking anything and everything fabric and quilt related.

If you can't find something like this, or your project is totally unsuited for passing along, spread it out in your back yard and catch it on fire.  Trust me...this works...

So your homework this week?  Work on your UFOs, yes, but work with a purpose.  If there is a particularly loud or heavy project in your space, either knock it out or trash it!

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. My UFOs definitely talk to me. I've been working on the ones that I kind of had promised, but I'm itching to start a new quilt. Heck, I even feel guilty for not finishing some of my mom's UFOs! How bad is that???

    I have also decided to have a flag quilt burning ceremony next summer to get rid of the damaged quilt I showed two weeks ago. I plan on having my step-daughter and grandson present. Maybe it will be the day I give my grandson a new quilt. We will see! But it feels good to know that it will be burned!

    You absolutely rock Leah! We all love you no matter what!

  2. Oh, I'm guilty of starting multiple project at the same time. Having a little one at home to watch doesn't give me much time to sew/quilt these days. So, my projects and UFO's are piling up.

    But at least I'm making progress with one of those projects.

  3. Congratulations you have just cleansed and released all of those toxic energies and emotions from your body. You probably feel that a huge weight has been lifted. Good for you.

  4. Brilliant! It must have also been mentally freeing to set fire to all those negative thoughts, see them transform into a growing light with nothing remaining of the negativity but dust.

    Perhaps we all need a little sinkhole release?

  5. Oh, but the waste! How about a UFO exchange, a take one-leave one kind of exchange? Or, those quilt tops that aren't going to be finished, ever, how about the local senior center where there are retired quilters who gather to tie donated tops and give them to those in need. Anything but destruction of our work, however tired we may have grown of it.

  6. I have a hand appliqué top that told me it needed to be hand quilted with lots of feathers. So I basted it and started hand quilting it. The only other quilt I've ever even tried to hand is still waiting to be finished, and it was started in 1989. I've come to the conclusion that it would be much better to machine quilt the appliqué quilt and actually finish it, then to make it wait for me to get around to hand quilting it.

    And most of my UFOs talk to me too.

  7. I absolutely love the idea of purging anything from your home that doesn't lend one to feeling free.
    However, there are a lot of guilds/churches/charities that will take those UFOs and fabric and can create new life into them by making quilts for the homeless or disadvantaged people (especially kids). I'd encourage everyone to find one of these organizations and donate the unfinished projects instead of throwing them directly into the trash.

  8. As freeing as it might be, I just don't think I could do it! I guess none of my current UFOs are making me that unhappy... yet. It's more of a quantity problem with my UFO mess.

    At least with ugly fabric if you cut it small enough it starts to look better ;-)!

  9. Leah, I personally would be happy to take any of your UUF's and finish one for you and send it back. It would be a great way to say "Thank You" for all the help and inspiration you gave. I'd be just as happy to keep it (yum, yum a Leah Day original in my house).

    I have to say I agree about getting rid of quilts that are an emotional block. I had to destroy my first quilt because it was so badly made (and what was I doing picking Jane Austen type fabric?). I reassured myself that this was ok as it was so badly sewn I would have had to completely rip it apart and start again. As you say quilt shops and charities will take quilts in any stage and gladly finish them off and give them to a new home.

    I wrote a long blog in the Mariners Compass Quilting Project about managing UFOs, both quilts and other stuff (same rules apply) as I have so been there and done that.

    A word of warning about completely just giving away 90% of projects is that you/we became chronic UFOers for a reason. Fast and wholesale clearing of the decks will only work in the short term, before you know it you are collecting projects again. Sometimes you have to work through the mess to really learn the lesson.

    Getting organised is the key I think. Don't jump from project to project with no clear plan. Those UFOs will shut up if they know they are on a list and you are working through that to get to them. Clear everything away into project bundles and don't have piles lying around (you can't hear the voices when they are muffled behind a wardrobe door).

  10. I have a couple of really LOUD UFO's, always nattering at me. I've decided to let them go to a new home. If I calculate how much I spent on the fabric and compare it to how many hours of fun I had (in the beginning) in choosing the right pattern, cutting out some pieces and dreaming about what it would look like finished, it works out to be 50 cents per hour of fun. I'd say I got my money's worth of the UFO. BYE BYE UFO and good riddance LOL!

  11. I'm more into process than product, so UFOs don't bother me. Last year, I took those projects that had been on my list for years and either sold them at our guild garage sale, or put them on the free table. I enjoy watching other people finish them up. Some of the big ones, I cut in smaller sizes and made donation baby quilts. My sewing time is my relaxation time, so I skip the guilt and just sew whatever I am in the mood to do. If someone in my family is cold, they sell blankets at the store. (That's what I told my daughter today, when she was trying to talk me into making her another couch quilt.) I love all the Ufo links...lots of inspiration.

  12. Check online for a Binky Patrol or Project Linus in your area. I'm the area coordinator for Binky Patrol and usually get someone's UFO's after they have passed. We always use up anything we can get and love to give quilts to kids. When your tastes have changed, or just your mood, pass along things now, so your children don't have to deal with it later :)

  13. Your image of silence in your sewing room resonates with me - I used to have my UFOs stacked up in baskets, and they were the first thing I saw whenever I went up there. They weighed me down with guilt and feelings of failure and being overwhelmed that left me frozen and unable to make any progress. Now the only one in sight is the one I'm working on, and the others are put away under a bed in a different room. Doing that released a lot of energy. Until June, anyway - since then I've come to a stop with quilting, and am just beginning to feel the urge again. Lots of catching up to do with Quilt Along!

  14. Its important with any project to remember its YOURS. You can do with it what you like. If its not working for you get rid of it, by whatever means. Personally I put my textile bits in the fabric recycling facilities. We don't need guilt for not finishing and then adding in guilt for how we dispose of them. I can only keep UFO work if it stops in a good place. If its was magging at me, upsetting me, and causing me anxiety then it has to go. I found a long time ago I'd simply get it out again and all those emotions would be back immediately, and once again stop progress. Yep its money in the bin, but is it... the cost of the fabric/threads is the cost of learning. We don't learn half as much when things go right, as when they go wrong, we don't learn about ourselves, our working processes, best times to work. Its not all about the money, the physical item, its the enjoyment and pleasure of doing... and if you don't have that with something, why force yourself to continue with it feeling miserable.
    Not a quilter, but an embroiderer, but I have two rules, don't keep UFOs which make me upset and everything must fit in one box with the lid properly on it, if it won't fit, then something has to go. Its surprising how editing this box to keep the lid shut, what remains over time and what goes....

  15. I had a quilt top that I truly hated. I mean, to me at least, that thing was butt ungly! lol
    Every time I walked into my quilt room I had such a negative vibe coming from that hideous top folded in the corner of the room. But I still couldn't bring myself to destroy it. It just seemed too selfish and wasteful when someone, somewhere could find warmth beneath it. So I finished it by concentrating not on my own dislike of the top, but on the grateful recipient it would someday be given to. Suddenly all those nasty, negative vibes turned positive. Once done, I donated it to my church to be given to someone in need. I'm so happy I finished that ugly quilt! :-)

  16. WOW! That was very powerful and emotional to see. Thank you for your truthfulness and sharing the process with us! I am going to link up to your blog post sometime this week if that's ok with you.

  17. What a fitting end to a quilt that was filled with such negativity. And what an image the fire created as it ate away at those words (threads) first. Now you must truly feel free of the past, and free to continue to create the new life you deserve! Kudos!

  18. Hey Leah! My UFOs not only talk to me but they have been known to set traps for me. They break fingernails and storage boxes fall from top shelves if they get really ticked at me. I'd been storing them in big tubs and I couldn't see what I had to work on. Well, I pulled out some smaller storage boxes and now there's only 1 or 2 projects per box and the pattern is smooshed up against the side so I can see what's in there. Seeing so many more smaller boxes reminds me of what's "in progress." I have gotten rid of a few that made me think, "What was I thinking?" I certainly felt both of your feet on my butt this past week and made good progress. Photo to follow this afternoon!! :)

  19. Don't throw it away. Recycle. Either donate it or cut it up and use as rags.

  20. Most of my UFOs are pretty quite. I was somewhat surprised at how many are lurking around when I checked my sewing room. I think they may be plotting something ; )

    In all seriousness, THANK YOU LEAH for the UFO Sunday challenge. I really did something special this past week, and it really helps to have the challenge to get something ready to link to your blog. I really want people to see what I was able to do this week because it is so very important to me....and a long time coming.

    You're awesome, Leah.

  21. Hope you were kidding about tossing or burning. Contact the HeartStrings quilt group and donate there. UFO could be turned into strings or crumbs for a beautiful quilt.

  22. Wow, what a powerful metaphor - setting the Sinkhole UFO on fire, destroying its power to eat at you any longer.

    Things I'm supposed to do speak to me all the time, interrupt my night's sleep, cause me to be restless. I think it is very healthy to actively make the decision to NOT do something. Good for you!

  23. No! Please don't throw away or burn your UFOs! There are lots of charities that will take your unfinished quilts and finish them to give to someone that needs a bit of love... some thoughtfulness. Don't waste the time and fabric you have in the project... Donate it to Sarah Craig at Confessions of a Fabric Addict (I've sent them two UFOs now and couldn't be happier about it. Or Margaret's Hope Chest - I'm pretty sure it's Margaret, I'm following her but just recently. Be Green!

  24. Hi Leah! I finally finished my 10 yr old UFO and we can't figure out how to move it from my FB page over here. If anyone wants to see it, go to Linda Hicks, Aurora, CO and go to my page that has the big family cover photo. It's the green one w/red stars. I'll leave it up a couple of days. Sorry we're so illiterate! :)

  25. Sinkhole had a fitting and glorious end. May those negative words NEVER hurt you again!!!

  26. After reading comments from those against 'eliminating' bad UFO's, I'd like to leave this thought: it's never a "waste",time spent is learning and perfecting your skills (as mentioned above).
    And, BAD ART IS ALWAYS GONNA BE BAD. Whatever issues made it not work will always be part of it. Not everything we do always works out! Why fill the world with our less-than-acceptible things?! If you're going to "gift" someone, don't they deserve something well made? Charity doesn't mean giving someone things WE didn't want. Lets make this a more beautiful world.
    'Green?'There's more clothing in landfills than UFOs.

  27. That was THE perfect end to such negativity--you are awesome Leah and I absolutely love keeping up with your work!
    Be good to yourself and yours and great big hugs from Germany,
    Love from Bobbi

  28. Hi, my name is Abby and I have a UFO problem. Or maybe it's a finishing problem.

    I don't actually hear voices form my UFOs, but they sure do weigh on me. When we moved last winter my husband complained that we spent two weeks hauling boxes of fabric to our new home. I didn't dare tell him most of those boxes were UFOs.

    I have, in the past, given some away to charity, even thrown out one or two, but I have still managed to fill my sewing space with half-done projects.

    What weighs on me the most is I really do want to finish them all, but can only work on one (sometimes two) at a time. And there are so many new ones I want to start!

    Maybe I need a quilting partner, someone who loves to finish quilts.

  29. I just finished a UFO that had been staring at me for six weeks. I couldn't wrap my brain around how to finish it and avoided it. Although it hasn't the longest tenure in my sewing room, it was shouting the loudest. I grabbed it yesterday afternoon, started without even knowing how I would proceed after the first minute, and had it completed in under an hour. And it looks great.
    I also recently skulked into my quilting store during a donation blitz for Victoria's Quilts with a LARGE bag of fabric. I mumbled an apology to the rep, thinking she would judge me (oh dear!) for foisting such ugly fabric onto her guild. She thanked me heartily - they don't get enough children's fabric - this was so welcome!
    My goal for the next year is not only to finish most of my UFO's but to be very strict about what projects I start so that sewing remains an enjoyable part of my life.

  30. I have just discovered Leah, free motion project and UFO Sunday. I have several projects yelling out to me but the one that is SCREAMING is a huge king size quilt for my daughter. I have just started a blog and as soon as I figure out how to navigate through all this, I'll document and post my progress. Thanks to Leah and all your postings, I now have the courage to proceed.


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