Warning Signs of a UFO


Can you tell when your project is at risk of becoming a UFO (UnFinished Object)? Here are some signs to alert you and steps you can take to prevent an alien invasion!

Project Too Big

Are you suddenly aware of the fact that the project you fell in love with could take the next decade to finish? That common feeling of being overwhelmed could stop you in your tracks. When you get that feeling of drowning in a sea of a 1000 half square triangles, try the following:

  • List the steps – write out each step of the project from your current point to the end.
  • Make it manageable – group the steps together into achievable goals. Organize your project according to your goals.
  • Schedule – grab your crafty calendar and schedule deadlines for your goals. Some of us find deadlines motivating and satisfying. If that’s not you, replace the word ‘deadline’ with ‘guideline.’
  • Take one step at a time.

Project Too Hard

If you have taken apart a block so many times you no longer recognize the fabrics, it might be too hard. When a project fills you with frustration the fun is gone and returning to it is torture. In lieu of packing it up burying it in the backyard, try the following:

  • Identify the problem – make sure you know what is giving you all the trouble. Reread the instructions, call up a friend and explain the problem in case you’ve overlooked something simple, be sure you have the right tools and equipment for success.
  • Try Youtube.com – find a couple videos showing the technique you are struggling with and watch them. Sometimes seeing someone else do something is all we need for it click for us.
  • Take it to guild – at your next guild meeting or sewing day with friends, show them your problem and ask them for solutions. One-on-one help is always great.
  • Take a class – whether online, at a local shop, or at a quilt show, equip yourself with knowledge to help you master the technique.

Project Too Boring

Is your project putting you to sleep? Is it taking the joy out of your quilting day with too much repetition? Break the monotony with the following:

  • Break it down – set little goals of 10-15 minute durations and then reward yourself. 
  • Distract yourself – hit play on a book you’ve been wanting to read or your favorite podcast. 
  • Go to a friend’s house – pack up your machine and head to a friend’s house where the two of you can talk, laugh, and sew away the hours. If your friend is extra wonderful they might even pitch in!

Project Too Ugly

Not everything comes out like we imagine. Has your project gone from a beautiful swan to an ugly duckling? Stop cringing and try the following:

  • Make your color palette – cut out 1″ squares from each fabric and glue in them side-by-side on a line on a piece of paper. Cut the strip out. Are there any colors fighting with each other? Are the values too similar? What is your neutral?
  • Research similar color groupings – do an online search for color palettes like your own. Are you missing a magical accent color that will make everything pop?
  • Find a color literate friend – take your palette strip along with an open mind and visit a friend with color confidence. Ask for color suggestions.
  • Consider scale and pattern – If color isn’t the problem, take a look at the patterns on each fabric. Each fabric should have its own job, make sure they aren’t all trying to do the same thing.

Project Too Painful

From headaches to sore muscles some projects can take more of a toll on you than others. If a project is giving you too much pain to continue, consider the following:

  • Change the lighting – bright, vibrant or repetitive patterns can lead to headaches. If this happens, change your lighting. Take your space from blue light to warm light with a change of a light bulb. Turn lights off or add more, whatever helps alleviate the stress on your eyes.
  • Shake it out – getting stiff? Stand up and shake it out. Gently stretch out the parts that have been in one place too long. Move, get your blood flowing again.
  • Take frequent breaks – Set a timer to limit your time and then take a break and do something else. Work with different materials or try a new position.

Each of these things puts you at risk of abandoning a project. When a solution can’t immediately be reached, try putting your project in time out before packing it up and launching it into a black hole (ie the craft closet).

How to Put a Project in Time Out

  • Put it where you can see it – Pin your progress to the design wall or lay it out on the guest bed, somewhere you can take a moment every now and again and give it a look.
  • Keep the parts together – Take all the bits and pieces and put them in a basket. Set them, along with the instructions, near the displayed portion.
  • Take your time to think – give yourself time to look at the quilt and think of solutions that inspire you to complete the project. If none appear after a couple weeks, pack up the project and notify NASA.
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Jill McCaughey

Thank you for this thoughtful article on a topic almost all of us suffer with at some time in our sewing history. While sorting and packing up ALL my possessions for storage until we find a new home, and giving away a number of UFOs, I was struck with how close to completion so many of them were! Now, when I return to Canada in the Spring, find a new home, and open boxes I will be able to re-evaluate things with a new perspective. Thanks again, Jill from Calgary/Phoenix

Barb Piekutowski

This article came at a opportune time for me. Getting started on a new project is fun and exciting. Finishing them not as much. Since the New Year usually has me making resolutions, I believe this year’s will be, to look at all my UFO’S in a different light. I see at least one of the solutions for each of my UFO’S. Thanks so much for your helpful insight.


You neglected three major questions. One- can you down size your project. That is, can you reduce the dimensions from perhaps King size to twin or lap size? Two-can you find the project a new home? Admitting you will never finish this particular project may be disappointing but realistic. By using the guideline you provide, the quilter should understand why this project wasn’t a good choice for them. Once they understand, find it a new home with someone who will be delighted with the project. Lastly-this relates to question two. If you don’t want to finish the project and you… Read more »

Perfect! I decided at the beginning of December that 2018 would be the Year of the UFO for myself and people who follow my blog. I plan to finish and post about finishing projects and hopefully encourage others to do so. Like the way you broke it all down and Nancy’s additions to it.


Our group decided this year to strive to finish all our UFO’s but we called them PIGS – projects in grocery sacks. We each make an individual list of all our UFO’s, put $5. in the pot and at the end of the year, we bring (for proof) all finished UFO’s that were on our list. The most finished gets the money! Hope it works for me.