Finish Your Quilt UFOs!

It’s the start of a new year, the perfect time to get your sewing room/supplies in order and finish off any quilt UFOs you have hanging around.

What does UFO stand for in quilting?

If you’re unfamiliar with the term, UFO in the quilting world stands for Unfinished Object. It applies to any project at any stage of progress that has not yet been completed.

UFO tends to refer to a project that has been put on the back burner for a while without progress, as opposed to a project that’s incomplete but is currently being worked on (that’s known as a WIP – work in progress).

We all have quilt UFOs. Some of us have MANY of them :)

If your UFOs become overwhelming, motivation-depleting or guilt-inducing then it might be time to actively work toward reducing them.

Scrappy yellow quilt made with squares

What to do with your quilt UFOs?

There are several options when it comes to handling your quilt UFOs.

You might like to spend a little bit of time reflecting on the project before you decide what to do with it. Was the quilt for a particular person or an event? Is the quilt still relevant to that person or occasion, or has it been overtaken by the time that’s passed? Is the UFO of a colour palette or style that you no longer appreciate?

There’s no rule that says YOU have to be the person to complete the project. If the quilt no longer speaks to you, you could gift it to a quilty friend who does love it and could complete and keep it. Or you can seek out organisations that need fabric/quilt tops for charity projects. (Just make sure that what you donate is useful for them. If they only take completed quilt tops, get it to that stage before giving it away.)

Scrappy yellow quilt made with squares

If you do complete a quilt UFO, you can give it to family, friends, charity or sell it on a handmade craft site such as Etsy.

Does the final outcome of the UFO have to be as first intended? If you were planning to make a twin sized quilt but found the process tedious, could you make a baby quilt instead and be finished with a lot less work? Or do you have an unfinished baby quilt that the baby has now outgrown? Could you extend the UFO with more blocks or borders to create a larger size that can be gifted to the now preschooler? Those two orphaned appliqué blocks don’t have to become a quilt – just make a pair of pot holders and be done with it!

Find some UFO Mojo.

The hardest part of finishing up quilt UFOs is finding the motivation to do so. That’s why the start of the year is a great time to commit to UFO busting… you can steal some of that Happy New Year magic and put it to good use.

Take stock of all your quilty UFOs and look at them honestly. Do you really want to finish this project? What else could you do with it to make sure it doesn’t go to waste? What’s the minimum effort required to get it to a useful state?

Scrappy yellow quilt made with squares

Once you’ve come up with a plan for each UFO, you can crack on with doing it. Give away what you need to give away. Prioritise which UFOs you’ll finish and remember – you’re aiming for FINISHED not PERFECT. Momentum is so important here – results will encourage more finishes; you want to take advantage of that. Try to keep the ball rolling!

Try to imagine how good it will feel to have those projects completed. They’ll be out in the world (or your living room) and they’ll be used and enjoyed. Much better than languishing in the back of a cupboard!

Once they’re gone, make sure they don’t come back!

When you have your quilt UFOs under control, be careful not to let yourself fall back into the same position.

Try and have WIPs, not UFOs. Even if you have several projects at the incomplete stage, making time to work on all of them will ensure nothing falls back into UFO status.  I like to have a few things on the go at any one time so that if I hit a bottleneck with one, I have something else to work on in the meantime.

Scrappy yellow quilt made with squares

My simple way of making sure my WIPs don’t become UFOs is to keep them in plain view. I find if I put it in a cupboard for any reason at all, it’s a case of “out of sight, out of mind” and it won’t receive any attention. So I keep my projects out, taking up valuable table space, which provides further motivation to get them done!

The first quilt UFO I tackled this year was this sunny yellow project.

Scrappy yellow quilt made with squares

I think I started this quilt in 2011. It would’ve been for my daughter (who still loves yellow) and was about 5 years old at the time. (She’ll be a teenager in a month…eeek).

Problems can occur when WIPs become old UFOs, which is why I thoroughly recommend you don’t let UFOs hang around too long.

Scrappy yellow quilt made with squares

It’s much quicker to do them early.

Firstly, the reasoning behind this quilt is long gone. I can’t remember a thing about it. The yellow squares are all odd sizes – why did I do that? Did I have a handful of scraps in that size? Or were the sashing strips all cut before I’d done proper calculations? The individual patchwork blocks finish at 6 1/2″…again, I’m not sure why. You can see the weird sizes needed to create this quilt below.

Scrappy yellow quilt made with squares

The quilt is now too small for my lanky pre-teen daughter. I wouldn’t mind making it bigger with some white borders, but what white fabric did I use? Was it my preferred Kona Snow or was I using something else back then? And of course, even if it is Kona Snow, over time fabric changes colour and manufacturers can change their colours so they may no longer match.

The biggest reason why I’ll try not to let quilt UFOs get the better of me in the future is this:

Scrappy yellow quilt made with squares

In many of the rows I found seam separations, no doubt due to excessive handling over the 8 years this project went from cupboard to cupboard to moving box. I had to repair many seams before I could sew the rows together. So much extra work I could have avoided if I’d finished this project in a timely fashion. Even if I’d just reached the quilt top stage I would’ve saved myself a lot of sewing the same seam twice.

So if you can, finish those quilt UFOs before they degrade and you have to do the same work again.

If you like to set goals for these sorts of things, why not join the 2019 Finish-a-long that’s underway? There are several hosts across the globe and you can link up your potential finishes and read more about it all here.

Happy sewing and all the best with clearing your quilt UFO backlog in 2019!


Scrappy yellow quilt made with squares

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21 thoughts on “Finish Your Quilt UFOs!”

  1. Loved the post and found it inspirational. Just in time as the blush of the New Year enthusiasm was waining. The comments are also encouraging. After a few years of not being able to sew but still managed to start several projects during good days I’m back at the helm. Very much looking forward to a successful year and your post gave me a boost. Alternating UFO’s and WIP is a great idea. Changing projects keeps the sparks flying.

    • I agree Patty, I think alternating is a great way to get through a UFO list that might seem daunting at first glance. Just chipping away at it over the year could be the winning formula. Best of luck getting back into the swing of quilting, I hope you achieve all your goals for 2019!

  2. Those darn split seams. That’s why I now do a short backstitch at the beginning and end of all seams. Then when the quilt top is finished and trimmed to size, I stitch close to the edge all around the quilt top. If I should see a split seam at that time after trimming, I fix it right away. The backstitched bits always end up in a seam allowance, and I’ve never found that they interfered with accurate piecing. I like your cheery yellow quilt!

  3. I have a quilt buddy who has trouble finding what to give me at Christmas or birthday-she’s decided to help with my UFOs. How blessed am I ????

  4. Such a beautiful quilt! I have the problem with my seams coming undone on fresh projects if I, say, sew strips x wof and then slice that into smaller pieces. What am I doing wrong?

    • Hi Shaena, I find when doing strip piecing it can help to reduce your stitch length so that you get more stitches per inch of sewing. This makes it more secure and harder for your cut ends to separate. However, it also makes it harder to unpick any mistakes, so sew slowly and true :)

      Also, the sooner you can sew those units into a completed quilt top, the better. The seams will be protected by the intersections with other seams. At the end, to make sure your final outer seams on your quilt top don’t pull apart, lots of folks like to sew a quick seam 1/8″ around the edge of the whole top. This makes sure none of the seams pull apart, and you don’t have to worry about removing it later as it should be hidden under your binding (as it’s sewn so close to the edge). Hope that helps!

  5. Kirsty, how did you repair those seams? I have a WIP (it hasn’t reached UFO status, and won’t, but I had to set it aside while I moved houses) that has the exact same problem. I have been wondering about the best way to fix those pulled-apart, pressed-open seam ends. I would love to know what you did and what you learned.

    • Hi Rachel, I wish I had a clever answer but it was really just hard work resewing the seams. I finger pressed the seam allowances back together (as mine were pressed open) and then sewed the seam again. I didn’t do the whole seam, just to about a half inch past where it started to come apart. I didn’t feel a need to repress the seams open after, I just made sure I pinned my rows before sewing (both to match seams and also to keep the seam allowances open if needed).
      Someone more particular might have first pressed the seams back shut before resewing the seams and then pressing open again, but I was all about momentum with this project. I knew if I let it take too long I would rapidly lose my motivation to git ‘er done! Finished is better than perfect ;)

  6. Great post Kirsty. Funny how we try to remember a plan or explanation for our methodology and come up blank! This is a lovely quilt top though. So sunny and cheerful. I am quite a fan of monochromatic quilts- using all shades of yellow is so sweet!

  7. I love that yellow quilt top, it’s so cheerful. I have been working on UFOs also. I have been trying to do one after each new finished quilt. I’m not always in the mood, they are getting finished a little at a time.

    • That’s a great idea, Bobbie, alternating WIPs and UFOs. That way you keep up the interest and the momentum on both sides. Good luck with getting through yours this year.

  8. Bonjour Kirsty,

    Quelle belle idée en ce début d’année de parler de ces UFO ! Je me suis reconnue là dedans, ma toute première courtepointe commencée il y a environ 10 ans n’est toujours pas terminée et depuis j’en ai commencé 3 dont une seule est terminée. Et cela ne m’empêche pas de continuer à acheter du tissu bien sûr.

    Au moins l’un de ces projets est un WIP. Je vais aller explorer plus à fond l’hyperlien vers l’autre site.

    Votre message me rappelle qu’il faut faire une planification pour que les choses avancent.

    Merci et bonne journée du Québec dans le froid hivernal.


    P.s. Je vous ai déjà écrit en français dans le passé vous vous souvenez, cela vous fait pratiquer ce que vous avez appris en France.

    • Bonjour Irène!

      Oui, je vous rappelle, et je suis tellement contente de lire cette belle langue. Mais, alors, mon cerveau me fait mal …. il y a si longtemps. Excusez-me pour mon écriture!

      Bonne année et bonne chance avec vos UFOs (et le WIP)!


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