Wednesday, April 18, 2018

11 Suggestions For How to Avoid Unfinished Quilts (UFOs)

Most of the activities we do in life have parts that are more enjoyable than other parts. Sometimes even the more enjoyable parts may feel less enjoyable depending on our mood or the circumstances.

The same goes for quilting.  Most of the things we do in quilting is enjoyable. They have to be, or we wouldn't be quilters, would we?  But there are times when the process seems cumbersome and we either have to push through those less enjoyable parts to abandon our projects before they are finished. They become the dreaded UFOs -- unfinished objects.

Here are some suggestions on how to avoid the tedium of quilting and avoid a pileup of UFOs. You can use one or a combination that will be most effective for your project and your personality. I will warn you ahead of time that some of these may give you the the opposite effect, so you may have to abandon them after trying them. When you do, abandon the suggestion for that project, not the project itself!

DVIDSHUB CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

Avoid Tedious Projects

The best way to avoid UFOs is to avoid projects that you know will cause you trouble. Just don't start them in the first place. If you know you don't like making the same block over and over again, don't make quilts that have that sort of pattern. There are plenty of other types of projects available. Allie prefers to work on applique projects because she prefers applique over piecing.


Remember the End Goal

When I saw the quilt mystery on Quiltville, I knew that this quilt would have lots of small pieces and lots of repetition of blocks, but I decided to make it anyway.  I pictured the finished quilt on my bed and now I want to see that quilt on my bed.  When the piecing becomes tedious, I can think of that mental picture and that helps me push through the boring parts.  I chose to make this quilt because I want it on my bed.  I had decided it was worth the repetition, so now I have to deal with the repetition. It is short-term pain for long-term gain.

Adapt the Pattern

There are many ways you can adapt a pattern to help you avoid or minimize parts that you do not enjoy. When I started the On Ringo Lake mystery, I made just a few blocks so I could make a smaller quilt than the pattern. That way, I could enjoy the process of making the quilt without the commitment of a bed quilt. When I saw the blocks, I decided I would rather have a bed quilt, but I could easily have decided to make the smaller quilt instead.

Another way I could have adapted the pattern is to make alternating blocks that didn't have as many pieces. I could have alternated with a different block with fewer pieces, or even alternated with solid, applique blocks. I could have used a solid instead of a pieced sashing. Either of these would have let me have a bed size quilt with less piecing.

This adaptation can be made before you start the project, but it can also be made at other times.  When the project is in danger of becoming a UFO, take inventory and see what you can do with the progress you have already made. This may mean you will have a table runner instead of a bed quilt, but at least you will have a table runner.

Vary the Process

Instead of cutting all the pieces first, then sewing each step in a particular order like a factory line production, you can vary the order in which you do things.  Since I wasn't sure at the beginning what size I would make my quilt, I made some blocks, then I made a few more, and then I made a few more.  By alternating the cutting, sewing and pressing processes, I was able to add variety. While this still involved making the same number of blocks overall, this avoided my making many of the same seams all at one time.

Jourdan Dukes cc by 2.0 via Flickr

Add a Change

If things are getting boring, it helps to change things up.  I did this by adding a new fabric to the mix.  I went through my scraps and added a few pieces that went with the fabric I was already using.  Adding this new fabric that held a memory for me helped add the variety I needed to push through.  Some of this was background fabric, and all of the additions were small pieces, so they didn't make a difference in the overall look of the quilt, but they did make the process less repetitive to me. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference.

Make Some Rules

Sometimes some rules can help with motivation.  Here are some I've tried:
  • No new projects until the old ones ares finished
  • No chocolate until I've quilted for at least 15 minutes
  • I can start one new project for each one I finish
  • I will add some seams for the repetitive quilt in between working on a quilt I am not finding repetitive

Be Accountable

You can make a promise and have someone check up on you to see if you have kept the promise, or you can make it more public by putting it on your blog.  I have challenged myself to stitch for at least fifteen minutes each day, and I show my results every week, even on weeks where I was not able to meet the challenge. It provides motivation for me to try every day since my results are public.

Get Some Help

 If you are stuck because you don't know how to do a particular step, solve a particular problem, or can't decide which option is better, sometimes asking for help can get you unstuck. Whether you ask a quilting buddy, or ask on a blog or social networking site, you may be able to get suggestions, advice, and positive encouragement to keep going.

Tish said:  "I also think adding having a quilting advice buddy is a good one. So if you get stuck on something like 'how to quilt it?' you can bounce ideas off of them."

Create a Challenge

I tell a student that the most important class you can take is technique. A great chef is first a great technician. 'If you are a jeweler, or a surgeon or a cook, you have to know the trade in your hand. You have to learn the process. You learn it through endless repetition until it belongs to you. Jacques Pepin
There are many ways you can add a challenge to your quilting. When my daughter was in school, instead of having the students memorize the times table, the teacher challenged them to see how many multiplication problems they could solve in ten minutes. These timed tests helped make the worksheets easier and gave them motivation to find ways to do them faster. To translate that in quilting, you could challenge yourself to:
  • master the quarter inch seam
  • improve the  quantity of your work by seeing how many blocks you can make in a limited time period
  • improve the quality of your work by seeing how many blocks you can make without making a mistake
  • improving your vocabulary by timing how many blocks you can make without cursing
  • learning to avoid distractions by seeing how many blocks you can make without getting interrupted
  • practice good habits or build endurance by working on that quilt for at least fifteen minutes a day 


Fix Your Attitude

Kaja said "There are boring bits to almost everything; it's about the balance between those and the things we love to do." If we keep the boring part in perspective, we can push through them to get to the parts we enjoy.


Make It Fun

Add some lively peppy music or listen to a good book. Dance as you go back and forth to the ironing board.


Enjoy the Process

The most important suggestion is to enjoy the process.  I quilt because I enjoy quilting, not because I want a quilt at the end. When I immerse myself in the enjoyment of the process instead of looking ahead to the end result or the number of blocks I have to make, I really enjoy the meditative quality of quilting. many other quilters feel the same way, and it is one of the things we love about quilting. Sure there is excitement about starting a new project and finishing one, but the bulk of our time and attention is that time in between starting and finishing.

Kyle said: It all can be a soothing rhythm even if there are times with a lot of repetition.

Kate said: Sometimes there is a lot of repetition, but I like to call that my meditation time, my brain just floats while my fingers do the work

Rail Fence by Shasta Matova

Try these eleven suggestions, either individually or in combinations. I think they will help you get your UFOs finished! What do you do to motivate yourself to keep quilting when you are in a slump?

Lnked to:
Let's Bee Social 224 
Off the Wall Friday
UFO Busting 16 
Moving It Forward Monday 


Kyle said...

What great thoughts! Thanks for sharing. I think I'll go stitch for 15 and then have a chocolate break!

Tanya said...

I guess I employ the staying accountable hint and the listening to books hint. The OverDrive app gives me a never ending supply of audio books to enjoy and bringing things to show to others in my quilting group or on my blog makes me want to stay with a project.

Quiltdivajulie said...

Good ideas - - I particularly like the ones that involve making changes as you work so that you remain interested in the project (adding new fabrics, varying the design, changing the overall size, etc.). I have multiple projects in the works but I'm happy to say there are no stalled UFOs. If I truly detest a project, I break it down, re-stash the fabrics, and move on.

FreeDragon said...

Felt a moment of panic when I saw the "no chocolate..." OMG, what?! Then I read the rest and realized it wasn't so unreasonable :)

Kaja said...

Great post! I always find that if I'm a bit stuck with a quilt, saying on the blog that I am aiming to finish it is a great motivator.

Marianne said...

Il ne reste plus qu'à mettre en pratique :)))

cocoya said...

Felt a moment of panic when I saw the "no chocolate..." OMG, what?! Then I read the rest and realized it wasn't so unreasonable :)
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Kate said...

Some great ways to keep things moving on existing projects. I just wish I had more meditation time, that's my biggest hurdle to getting rid of a few UFOs.

Allie-oops Designs said...

That is a GREAT list - no matter what, there's going to be boring parts, even if all you do is applique, lol. I'm going to save this list, girl, I love this post!

Kathy Pitts said...

Thank you for such a thoughtful post. Hope to see more from you at Nina's site.

Tish Stemple said...

Shasta, yes! yes! yes! to this post. All of these are such great suggestions to help quilts become finished projects and not just fabric road blocks. I also think adding having a quilting advice buddy is a good one. So if you get stuck on something like "how to quilt it?" you can bounce ideas off of them.

Kate @ Smiles From Kate said...

Lots to think about, some great suggestions here although I'm not into chocolate. I recently discovered when I cut out the whole quilt at once I get on much faster though, I hate cutting out. Last year I made a rule to finish two UFO and start one new, and promptly broke it, sigh! This year I aim to finish every quilt I begin and finish three UFOs. So far I have finished one UFO, one new quilt, and started two others both of which are wedding quilts.