UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?

I’ve recently gotten a new sewing space, which is a wonderful thing, but it has meant moving and sorting all the sewing “stuff” I’ve accumulated over 30 years. This brings up some tough questions when it comes to UFOs and past projects. When is it time to let them go? How should I decide? Maybe you can help me.

ufo2 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?


#1. For this top I used designs from a block book and set 15 assorted blocks into three columns. Made about 12 to 15 years ago. I think quilting would help a lot.

ufo3 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?Just the piecing in this 6″ cake stand basket block makes me think it’s a keeper.

ufo1 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?


#2. Made this on a class assignment to use a triadic color scheme. Blue checks are feedsack, floral is a vintage tablecloth, rickrack is all vintage. Not my best idea ever. All it needs is binding but it doesn’t feel finished, and at the same time, doesn’t feel worth finishing. I hate to sacrifice vintage textiles but maybe this one should go.

ufo4 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?


#3. Very long-term project of hexagons. Love all the reproductions, especially the cheddar centers. And look what happens when I add the turkey red.

ufo5 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?Be still my heart! Gotta keep at this if it’s ’til my daying day! It started out as a hand project but now I’m joining them on the machine. ‘Cause I’m only gonna live so long.

ufo16 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?



#4. Made this tree to express “Spring.” Still love the tree but not sure where to go from here. Could be a good design exercise, but I don’t want to just make more trees. How about the “maybe” pile?

ufo8 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?

#5. I printed some gorgeous vintage Valentines onto fabric and appliqued one to a fat quarter. No idea what I was thinking.

ufo10 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?Added some stitching which was supposed to be decorative but looks frenetic and doesn’t go with the feminine mood of the image at all.

ufo11 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?I even have more images printed on fabric, waiting their turn. I really hate it that I wasted those fabric sheets…but I need to let all of them go. The idea just isn’t going anywhere. Goes into the “delete” pile.

ufo6 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?


#6. Made this as a color option for Quiltmaker for a quilt called Wild Thing. I still have the fabrics to make this repro version as large as I want to. But it feels boring to me, uninspired. I could repeat the blocks over and over but I don’t think it would look much different than it does now. Quilting would probably help, but it can only do so much. I think this gets passed along to someone else—maybe she can catch the vision!

ufo15 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?


#7. I made this 10 or 12 years ago and I still love it. It was WAY too much work to let someone else have it. And now my first grandbaby is due and surely this would be an appropriate gift? Except. As much as I hate to admit it, I can think of many other simpler designs my daughter would like better. (A Piece o’ Cake design from Once Upon a Season)

So the dilemma is that I can’t get rid of it and I can’t give it to the only baby I feel is worthy of it. One option: make a bunch more wagon wheels until this is big enough for me to snuggle in when I need a happy quilt. Yes. Done.

klee UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?

#8. This is one gut wrenching. The class assignment was to make something in the style of an artist whose work you admire. I chose Paul Klee and used the piece above as my inspiration to make the piece below. It honors my son, who has special needs. The ugly word that represents his diagnosis is nestled in the letters. (It has only one border—the outer tan you see is the carpet under the quilt.)

ufo71 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?


I think maybe I never finished this because it was too painful. All it needs is a facing. Even if I just tuck it inside a drawer, I will finish this. It’s meaningful for me and that’s what matters.

ufo13 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?


#9. Even more gut wrenching. Assignment was to make a quilt to evoke emotion. I chose the Holocaust, which felt like cheating, because how can that not evoke emotion? Even more so when children are present.

ufo14 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?

I painted the coarse fabric to look like a concentration camp uniform. I painted their stars yellow. I cried a lot while making this quilt. I can’t finish it but I can’t let them be forgotten either. No idea what to do—this one baffles me completely.


ufo17 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?


#10. These were actually someone else’s UFO, purchased at a guild garage sale. Why do I do this to myself? They seem to have potential. I think I’ll stick with it.

ufo12 UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?


And finally, this color option for Quiltmaker. A Bonnie Hunter design called Patches and Pinwheels that makes a dynamite scrap quilt in ANY fabrics. I used Japanese taupes and similar prints. This will be gorgeous. It has to stay. (Again, the outer tan is the carpet.)

This has been like quilting therapy! When I’m forced to state the reasons for keeping or deleting, it becomes more clear what should stay and what should go.

How would you vote? Leave a comment with your thoughts about these UFOs please. I’m interested in knowing if you agree or disagree.

On my own, I’m left with this tally: Keep 6; Delete 3; Maybe 1; Unknown 1. If I get really tough and move the Maybe and Unknown both into Delete, it’s nearly a tie. And that’s good enough for me at this stage of the game.

About Diane Harris

I'm an editor for Quiltmaker magazine in Golden, Colorado, USA. For six years, I wrote pattern instructions, product reviews and how-to articles. Then I spent four years as QM's Interactive Editor, working to generate much of our online content. Now I'm back to patterns and how-tos, which is a great fit for me. I still love writing about quilt-related topics for Quilty Pleasures, and I always have my finger on the pulse of the quilting world. I teach a variety of quilt classes and give guild programs, too. Reach me by email: editor@quiltmaker.com.
This entry was posted in Scrapbag, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to UFOs and Past Projects: When to Let Go?

  1. Kristen says:

    I did this not long ago and what therapy it was to share some of my UFOs. I’m planning on finishing the one’s shown, but I still have many, many more that need decisions. It was nice to see I’m not alone in my turmoil of trying to decide if I should finish or let go.

  2. Lois says:

    Don’t “delete” any of them, donate the ones you don’t want to finish. I’m sure there is a church quilting group, or other charity quilting venue, who would love to have your UFOs to incorporate into a quilt.

  3. Claudia says:

    I’m back again. Looking at #2 again, I think the problem is the upper right block. It doesn’t have the same “vintage” center, so it goes “clunk”. If it weren’t quilted, I would take apart and just use those three blocks for a little table runner. As it is quilted, hmmm… not high on my list of priorities. Save it for the baby when it needs a doll quilt at grammy’s house?

  4. valerie says:

    Here are my thoughts.
    1. Finish. I like it, it is well made, and I agree that quilting will make it even better.
    2. Let it go.
    3. Finish. You have put a lot of work into this one already, and the red makes it come alive.
    4. My first instinct would be to say let it go. Another idea might be to make a fall, winter and summer block using the same pattern and then make it into a wallhanging.
    5. I see you have an offer to take it off your hands, I would take her up on it.
    6. Let it go.
    7. When I first read about this one, I felt that you should finish it for the grandbaby. Then I read your daughters comment and thought that was wonderful that she wanted it. Perfect.
    8. Finish and keep. Not only is it meaningful to you, but I’m sure it is for your other family members as well.
    9. Keep this also, even if you don’t know what to do. I think eventually you will know.
    10. I think these blocks are great, I would try to find a way to finish them.
    11. This is beautiful. Finish.
    PS. I loved this post.

  5. Debbi says:

    I pretty much was right with you on your choices. It’s hard to give up on something you put time and effort into, but if your heart isn’t into it, it can be a real relief to release it to someone else. The maybe and unknown….I’d hang onto the tree block and plan on putting it into an orphan block quilt….someday. For the holocaust effort I think it might be cool to make it into a picture by framing it, croping it some so that the pictures were more prominent. The keepers are all wonderful and will be satisfying to finish. I love the bright colors of the wagon wheels…finish it into a wall hanging or baby quilt so it doesn’t become too time intensive as it would be making a godzillion more blocks….or take them apart and make into placemats for summer time dining or gloomy winter days? I always have these plans for such large quilts that I never get finished. I think it can be just a satisfying to scale down the project and get it done rather than it continue be too overwhelming to complete. Great UFO’s, thanks for sharing. I need to dig out mine and re-evaluate them.

  6. Marcia W. says:

    Trust your gut. If were me, I would get rid of the checked fabric on the first one, and use something else with narrower width. I wouldn’t keep the other person’s wip unless you can see an end (I received one, saw the end, and it turned out good – you have to have a vision). There is nothing wrong with keeping partly finished projects that have emotional meaning to you (your son quilt and Holocaust quilt). Finish the baby quilt and give it to your grand. My sister had all boys, put away a pink quilt my mother made, and now 30 years later, loves it as quilt for her first grandchild – a girl. Her sons took “their” quilts with them.

  7. Claudia says:

    I recently pulled out a baby quilt project I know I started at least 15 yrs ago. If you saw it, you would know why I was pulling my hair out. I realize now that I did not have the piecing skills and tools to do what I wanted to accomplish then, so I felt very satisfied that I could accomplish that now. Now, I just need to quilt it.

  8. Sometimes a UFO was only good for learning the technique, and I never finished it because I learned what I wanted to… but I still have because you never know! lol I like all your projects and think when the time is right, you will work on them. :-)

  9. I think you should keep them all…but then I have mountains of UFO’s!
    I could not bear to “delete” any of these projects. I would store single blocks in a block container to join with other blocks in tablerunners in the future. Some of your projects (2, 4, 6, 9) I would finish up as little wallhangings or table toppers. The rest have to be finished quilts!

  10. Holly says:

    This is the daughter! I would like to make sure you know that I would LOVE that potential baby quilt. :) Also, I loved Claudia’s comment about the Holocaust quilt being a symbol of unfinished lives–that’s such great insight. And of course I cried when I saw #8, but these readers are right, it is SO meaningful and such a beautiful way to express grief.

  11. I have the same problem, so no help, lol.
    What I did for now is, put away what I am stuck on and not sure if I want to finish and keep out the ones I do want to finish. I will finish those first, then go back to the others and decide what I want to do.


  12. Andee Neff says:

    I just wanted to say that the lovely baby quilt could be finished and be the baby’s quilt at Grandma’s house so you get to keep it and will use it occasionally too! Then any babies that come your way have a gorgeous quilt to play on and snuggle up in. Thanks for sharing your UFO’s!

  13. Claudia says:

    1. Quilt and bind. 2. Bind and put up for adoption or make into apron. 3. Those hexies were a lot of work. Keep going. 4. Second on the mug rug idea. 5. I would adopt the Valentine project. Love old Valentines. 6. One last border and up for adoption.
    7. Finish, it is a “happy” piece. 8. Finish–it is significant to you. 9. Finish “as is”. It is a symbol of unfinished lives. 10. Sashing strips in tan and finish. 11. Finish.

    Or, would you like to trade? I have at least as many UFO’s.

  14. Jennifer says:

    About #8 – you should finish that. Seems like a great reminder to you to look at the world through his “eyes” for help understanding of where he’s at.

  15. Jennifer says:

    I think I’d take #2 and work it into an apron – it just says “cozy kitchen friend” to me.

  16. Anne P says:

    For #4 – the Spring Tree – why don’t you just use this one block and make a mug rug.

    For #10 – add borders to each block and make them into placemats.

  17. Barb Colvin says:

    I’d rework #2 with the vintage fabrics by removing the checked feedsack fabric (maybe use those strips in another project?). Those blocks are beautiful! I know we all hate to unsew, but adding some sashing and a new border could create a very sweet wall hanging. Is there enough of the feedsack fabric to frame each block with narrow sashing?

  18. Peg Spradlin says:

    I love #7, think it’s perfect for the first grandchild, and think your daughter would love it for the new baby, too; even if she never uses it for the baby and makes it a keepsake.

  19. Ila K. says:

    Diane, these are some wonderful works in progress. The Holocaust quilt might be nearly done – it speaks of so many lives ended before they should have been completed. If it is too painful to retain, perhaps the Holocaust Museum would have a place for it.

    The quilt honoring your son touched me as well.

    Thanks for sharing so many neat projects.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>