UFO: UnFinished Object


Let’s talk about UFOs. (That’s quiltspeak for UnFinished Object; in other words, a quilt project you started but never finished.) Several years ago, the committee for QuiltNebraska (a statewide summer event) had an idea: offer a class on UFOs.  They put out a call for someone to teach it, and I thought it sounded like fun.

sewroom UFO: UnFinished Object

My studio as I sorted through UFOs.

I know a lot about UFOs (see the photo above). I mean, I’m practically an expert.

I was hired.

ufo111 UFO: UnFinished Object

One of my many UFOs

At first I thought folks would just come and sew mostly on their own. But I soon realized that UFOs are unfinished for a reason. People usually need some kind of help or motivation to get going again.


ufo222 UFO: UnFinished Object

Another of my UFOs

And so I developed my UFO “curriculum.” Now I teach UFO classes regularly—and they are so much fun! Over the next few days I’ll share the handouts with you, one at a time.


One thing that surprises me in these classes is how much everyone learns from other people’s UFOs. You don’t just get going on your own project, you also see, hear and experience how problems are solved on other pieces. The learning meter hits the red zone!

chart example 7 UFO: UnFinished Object

Another wonderful surprise for me is how much I learn from teaching this way. Put someone in a room with 20 quilters who all have obstacles to overcome—and wow, they learn to think fast.

brain fitness UFO: UnFinished Object

I have to be creative all day long and it’s really good for my brain. I am totally pumped by the end of class and I’ll often go home and sew for several hours on adrenaline.



ufo333 UFO: UnFinished Object

I could never forget a UFO like this!

Surprise #3: Because I work closely with every student and her project, I make associations that stay with me for a long time. If I see someone three years later, I may not remember her last name, but it’s likely I’ll remember her UFO. So we’ve built this little UFO community—and who doesn’t like community?!

Tomorrow we’ll get going with Part 1 of the UFO handouts.

Are you interested in finishing up some UFOs? Tell everyone about one you’d like to complete in the comments below. Leaving a comment might be just the motivation you need to get started—with finishing!





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 Quilty Lifestyle, Scrap Squad. Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to UFO: UnFinished Object

  1. Tara says:

    If you have collected all the supplies, fabric and pattern for a project and it is kept together, but no sewing or cutting has happened–is it consider a UFO or a kit????


  2. Come Celebrate World UFO Day Festival in Memphis, Tennesse, home of Elvis Presley – the coolest alien of them all.

    There are several reasons why this day has found it’s way into the world. One of the first and foremost reasons is to raise awareness about the undoubted existence of UFO’s and with that intelligent beings from outer space. This day is also used to encourage governments to declassify their knowledge about sightings throughout the history. Many governments, the US government for instance, are believed to have gained exclusive information about UFO’s through their military departments. A subject that still raises a lot of curiosity is the Roswell incident in 1947 when a believed UFO crashed in Roswell New Mexico.

  3. Linda says:

    I make quilts for Project Linus and a team from my ‘most donated to’ hospital go off to less well off countries to do heart operations. They usually have to take everything with them including blankets. When I heard of this work I wanted to do something but I knew I could not make enough quilts for even one session abroad so I stitched orphan blocks onto fleecy blankets for the team to take with them. They were lightweight to transport and each one different with the advantage that they are easy to launder (fleecies are cheap too). I’ll be doing more when I can.

  4. SweetAmbrosia says:

    I only have 6 UFOs. Like the idea of calling them WISPs … sounds so nice.

    The trouble as I see it? There are so darn many wonderful quilts I want to make, then get about 1/2 way through making the quilt top, and another new one calls my name lol

    While I enjoy and love hand quilted quilts. I realize there is no way to do them all. So a decision had to be made. It has to be a very special quilt to become a hand quilted one. Fortunately for me, one of my dear friends has a small home business long arm quilting. Her work is terrific, vert neat and she involves you in each step Her fees are very reasonable. Yes, I fought with myself about someone else doing quilting, machine quilting at that. We each have to come to a conclusion about what we can accomplish, and not berate ourselves about not being that perfect do-it-all quilter. What a load off my quilty mind lolol

    Like the idea of a UFO/Wispy group though…

  5. MarciaW says:

    There is one UFO that want to finish for sentimental reasons. Hundreds of tiny LeMoyne stars handpieced with random accuracy. The irregular sizes mean cannot use my original idea for a setting. What to do now? I’m stuck.

  6. MarciaW says:

    I have a project in the box of hundreds of tiny LeMoyne stars that I hand pieced — they have widely varying sizes and do look very handmade. My original setting is no longer viable since the sizes are so “off.” There are strong sentimental reasons why I do not want to abandon this project.
    This is a UFO that I definitely want to finish – yet I am stuck.

  7. Donna H says:

    Many of my UFO’s come from the classes I teach. I have each project set up to show the step by step instructions to make it easy for my students to follow. This means I end up with several versions of the same project at various stages of completion, but none of them are done. I also have several quilt tops that I never got quilted because I didn’t make them for a specific purpose. Thus there was no deadline, so in the closet they went. I’m going to start my list today & I’m sure I’ve under estimated the number.

  8. Judy says:

    At last some one with as many UFOs as I have, 60+. Many are from over the many years of classes, retreats and teaching at the local shops(needed samples in all stage for these). I challenged myself to finish 3 UFO and then as a reward I could start and finish, something new. This has worked for several years. This year I listed 12 projects. Then ask my husband to pick a number. Whatever that number is is the next project to finish. Yes, some are large ‘kits’ and will take more than a month but that is okay.

  9. Claudia says:

    Well, your pix are lost today. Seems to be something going on. I finished piecing a UFO I started some years ago, and realized I stopped because I didn’t have the skills needed to finish. Now that I have tackled the problem from the past, I understand my quilting skills have grown to the point I could do what I needed to accomplish. Other times, you just need to give yourself permission to quit.

  10. I once “won” (?) when our local group counted up UFOs: I had the most?!! I finished 3 last winter. So that means there’s probably er …30 more…somewhere.?)
    I started a brand new stash-busting quilt as you go July 2. Almost done!!! (August 2 is my target finish date… should get off computer now!.)

  11. Iris Eickhoff says:

    I have a trunkful of UFO’s, so please sign me up.

  12. Deborah DeBerry says:

    I can’t count that high!!! In preparing for retirement, I took numerous classes to learn different techniques and learn how to quilt(piecing mainly). Since I had no time while working to work on each quilt from each class, EVERYTHING I have is UFO. I am now retired and looking forward to working on each project. I also feel as if I as still learning each class I take. Three weeks ago I took a tote class and finished it, and realized that it was the first time I had ever really quilted anything. Last Saturday I did another tote class and finished it, because it was a gift for my granddaughter born yesterday–second thing finished. I seem to be on a roll, I hope!!!! I will enjoy learning helpful aids from you to keep me going!! Thanks in advance.

  13. Joanna says:

    Off the top of my head I can count seven projects that are now UFO’s, so I will be reading your posts with great interest. For me I think motivation is the stopper because if I want something I finish it.

  14. Diann says:

    I have also found that I have “time” to do the things I really want to do. Such as, read this blog, glay games on Facebook and the compuer in general, read, watch TV and go to numerous group meetings, go out to eat, etc, etc. So there must be something about these UFOs that I don’t want to do. I will be waiting to see how this class goes. I am looking forward to it with great hope.

  15. Cheryl says:

    I have so many UFOs that it isn’t even funny. Everything from finished tops waiting to be quilted, to quilts waiting for borders, to stacks of finished blocks, to partially appliquéd wall hangings and so forth and so on. What I’d really like to finish first is a lap quilt for my dil so I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for your next post.

  16. Trish M says:

    I, too, love to start things but am not so great at finishing. I love the look of hand quilting but hate how long it takes. So I am hoping that if I commit to following and trying some of your tips, I’ll be able to stick with the one I have started and get it finished up so that I can move on to a different project without feeling guilty!

  17. Jackie says:

    I have a long list of UFO’s and a stack of quilt tops too. I try to join any UFO challenges because any extra motivation always helps. I got my Farmer’s Wife Sampler quilt UFO made into a quilt top during a UFO challenge earlier this year. I’d like to get it quilted and finished because I’m keeping this one for our bed.

  18. Cathryn H. says:

    I have joined the UFO Challenge in my local quilt guild. We each, those of us who joined in, made a list of our UFO’s. At each guild meeting, we turn in our completed quilt – which must be finished, bound and labeled. While a hanging sleeve is optional, everything else must be completed when turned in. To actually have someone who teaches a class on UFO finishing is a boon to quilters everywhere. I have more than I put on my list, but I’m not starting more than one or two new for every 4-5 I finish. So I’m making slow progress.

  19. Looking forward to your hints. Thanks! I love finishing projects that are “vintage.”

  20. Diann says:

    I am a great starter and a very poor finisher. It’s not that I don’t finish, but sometimes it takes a very, very long time. I once listed all my UFO’s and was so surprised that I had 60 quilts in progress. And that did not count any knitting, crocheting, redwork, or beading projects that I had started. I have since given some of it away and feel better. But there is still a lot to do. I will need to quilt 40 hours a week until age 132 to get all this finished.

  21. Betty Evans says:

    I have lots of UFOs too. Like someone else mentioned, they were started in classes or retreats and when they got too big to work on there I quit. Also have a Dear Jane in progress! Need motivation.

  22. Rachelle says:

    I need to finish our bed quilt, unfortunately I promised eldest one for him first so have to get that started and finished before we get one!

  23. Pam Spell says:

    Here are a couple of ideas to help conquer some of your UFOs. If you have an orphan block, say you signed up for a class, but had to drop it after the first or second time, make it into a tote bag for a friend’s birthday coming up. If it’s something you’ve just fallen out of like with it, but there’s not really anything wrong with it, think of who might really like and appreciate it. Make up that quilt to give to them. If they aren’t a quilter, they’ll never notice the things that seem like glaring imperfections to you. This is a great way to honor a pastor’s wife or a co-worker. Another thing to do with both orphan blocks and things you’ve fallen out of like with is to simply give the blocks away to a local quilt group, but check with them first; they are not a Goodwill box! I had a year’s worth of blocks from a Saturday block of the month that I knew in my heart I wouldn’t finish. I didn’t really like the colors, but signed up for it because of the friendship/fellowship angle. One of my quilting buddies was glad to get them and used them for a raffle quilt for her Race for the Cure team. Other abandoned projects have been embraced by the quilt group to use as charity quilts, some for children, others for the Crisis Center, some for soldiers. Sometimes the ready made blocks can really give them a leg up on getting a quilt together in a hurry.

  24. Mary Lou says:

    My most important UFO is a project that I’m just beginning. My daughter is now engaged to be married and I have to finish it before the wedding (March 30, 2013). I am going to use the Wedding Star by Judy Neimeyer (spelling???) but not the current ones that are available. I bought the pattern, with printed paper for the paper piecing, several years ago. I have a stash of fabric. Now all I have to do is get busy. However, it’s basically a double wedding ring and I already have 3 other quilts that are basically the same pattern. They are just printed by various authors and completed in different ways. Let’s hope I can finish this one!

  25. Mary Lou says:

    I’ve been inishing up projects since January, but I’ve only scratched the surface of work I need to complete. On top of that, I get inspired to start new projects and then I have more work to complete. Please help me finish my UFO’s!

  26. Martha Varino says:

    As it is very hot in Texas, I have been hand piecing blocks…I have pizza boxed with blocks for about 6 or 7 tops…still piecing Grandmother’s Flower Garden blocks…hope to put some tops together & quilt them this winter. Could use some tips.

  27. Kris says:

    I am a starter – great at the beginning and then something else comes up and my enthusiasm goes away. I do have one UFO that calls for 35 Jacob’s Ladder blocks and I’ve discovered that making the same block over and over is very dull! I could definitely use some motivational tips.

  28. According to my spreadsheet, I have 64 UFOs. Of that, 3 are layered but unquilted. That seems to be my biggest roadblock: after I spend all that time making a top I love, I’m afraid to mess it up with less-than-competent quilting. I’ve been practicing FMQ but still I’m fearful. I say “done” is better than “perfect,” but I guess I’m not really buying it. . .

  29. Pam in KC says:

    I’m with May and also call my projects WISPs. I go one step further and don’t count my tops as WIP/WISP/UFO, although I do keep a list. Right now my most challenging project is an applique project I’m designing from a clip art I found on the internet. I just need to get in gear and get it done. (Applique is not my favorite form of quilting). Then there’s the purse which needs grommets and straps, a frog which needs eyes (more applique) and then and then and then. You get the idea. There’s 36 projects in the works – some BOM, some leader/enders. Now if I can just stop starting new projects….

  30. Patricia says:

    Most of my quilt projects end up UFO’s, I an enthusiastic at the start, but soon get bored and move on to something else sure could use so inspiration!

  31. Linda says:

    I have a quilt as you go Baltimore Album quilt….8 (yes I said eight) blocks are finished and I have another one that is appliqued and partly quilted….not so far to finish it, but it’s at least 10 years old! I may have one or two others that are taking a while but I’m NOT counting!

  32. Maureen Terblanche says:

    I have5 sets of blocks done, but they are just sitting there looking at me trying to tell me how to make them up, but for the life of me I cannot tell by their expressions what they want me to do with them! Will wait to hear what you have to say to help me solve my problem! LOL

  33. Kate says:

    Well the problem with taking classes is often they have a full sized project. That I start and then dont get back too. Most of my UFO’s are because of time (lack there of) than getting stuck. I have at least 15 and 3 tops to quilt that because of work I dont have time to work on. Am going to try to be disiplined this fall and follow a bloggers idea of taking an hour each morning to quilt, then going on to the rest of the day. Maybe that would work. A class like this would be fun though!

  34. May Britt says:

    I rather like to call them WISP (Work In Slow Progress) or WIVSP (Work In Very Slow Progress)

  35. JanetB says:

    I have a Judy Neimeyer quilt started that I would like to complete. I’m looking for inspiration…

  36. I would like to have time to start a few UFOs to have on hand! For now I have one UFO 4″ sampler block collection that would count as a UFO. Would love to find the time…

  37. Mary Jo Jones says:

    Your series sounds like something I definitely need. I am really looking forward to it! Thanks in advance:)

  38. Nicole says:

    I am so interested in this series! Years ago I participated regularly in a UFO group, and it was one of the most fun and inspirational things I have ever done. Unfortunately I moved out of the area and miss that sewing group enormously. Your series is just what I need to get back in the groove.

  39. Susan Torrens says:

    I guess I’m one of the rare quilters who almost never has any UFO’s! I do have projects that are delayed for a while until they tell me what they want – but I always persevere and finish every project that I start!
    Right now I’m struggling with a redwork project – I have the blocks completed, but I can’t decide how to set them off. I try to finish each redwork project differently. I don’t want this one to “grow” too large, so it is taking a bit longer to complete that I would like!
    Meanwhile, I’m making some placemats for a gift – don’t like to waste my quilting time!

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>