I sometimes think the “F” in UFO* stands for “Forever.” As in, “this thing may be finished one day, but it will feel like it took forever.”

This is the downside to be a quilter (and a novel writer, for that matter). I love big, complex, time-consuming projects. They are engrossing and challenging. The intricate, detailed results are satisfying, but getting from start to finish can take me a long long long long time.

For example, today’s quilt (which I finished last week) is part of a series that I started in 2000. You read that right. This project is fifteen years old. And it’s still not done! There are 6 different pieces in this color exercise I’ve challenged myself with, and it’s taken me over a decade to get them all designed and pieced. I have three left to quilt, so I am nearly there.

Color Exercise #4: Green-Orange-Yellow (34" x 34") by Kit Dunsmore
Color Exercise #4: Green-Orange-Yellow (34″ x 34″) by Kit Dunsmore

My goal is to use three adjacent colors on a 6-color wheel for each quilt. (Remember the color wheel from art class? Red-orange-yellow-green-blue-violet.)

The basic color wheel (primaries and secondaries only)
The basic color wheel (primaries and secondaries only)

The latest piece is my green-orange-yellow quilt, the fourth one I’ve pieced, but the third one quilted.

Close up of the Green-Orange-Yellow quilt
Close up of the Green-Orange-Yellow quilt

These quilts have been sitting in the closet, waiting for me to quilt them, which is part of the reason it is taking me so long. Of course, this quilt didn’t take fifteen years to make. It took a few months to make. But I spread out the steps over time, because I get stuck, distracted, bored, or all of the above. I constantly start new projects, despite the UFOs I know I have lying around.

Close up of the quilting in the border. The quilt is so busy this is the only place you can really see the quilting.
Close up of the quilting in the border. The quilt is so busy this is the only place you can really see the quilting.

I’ve decided it’s time to get some of my UFOs F’d and out into the world. I have lots of finished tops, so this is my chance to practice my machine quilting and finish some projects at the same time. If I stick with it, I might be able to get this color exercise series done before 2020.

Do you have lots of UFOs lying around? How do you trick yourself into finishing things?

*In the quilting world, UFO stands for “UnFinished Object.” It’s code for “yet another project I abandoned in the middle but still expect to return to someday.”

15 thoughts on “Quilting Doesn’t Take Forever; It Just Feels Like It”

    1. I’ve been working out of my stash alone for a few years now. I finally had to buy fabric and thread to finish this quilt and it was a shocker. I literally didn’t have a big enough piece of dark green for the binding, and it’s not that big of a quilt! Deadlines can be motivating, but if I’m doing really creative work, they just freeze me up. Can’t wait to see your table runner.

  1. Really love the G-O-Y quilt. The colors shimmer with each other, and of course I love the medallionish format!

    As to finishing, I just do. Though occasionally I have multiple projects going at once, I do most projects one at a time, and then I finish them without much delay. There is ONE true UFO in my studio, by my definition. Two, if you count the one started with my granddaughter and waiting for *someday* when we can get together and work on it some more.

    1. Cool. There are days I really wished I worked this way. But I’ve come to realize I need the variety of multiple projects. Trying to change my process doesn’t work, so instead I’m changing my attitude towards how I work.

  2. I am a beader, and I have dozens of unfinished projects. Despie the fact that a necklace can easily be finished in an afternoon, I rarely finish in one sitting. I always like to wait a day and see how it looks in a different light before I add the clasp. But when I sit down to bead again, I am more interested in starting a new project than finishing an old one…unless I am really utterly in love with it and want to wear it tomorrow or give it as a gift.

    1. Wow! I thought I had it bad. (The new project thing, I mean.) I can understand wanting to make sure you like it first. I’m very uncertain when it comes to making jewelry and have taken things I put together apart again to reuse the beads

  3. That is beautiful! I especially like the solid green diamond. I’m terrible with colors, so I’m really in awe of how you were able to put this together. Reminds me of a kaleidoscope.
    As a person with several UFOs in several different crafts, the only thing that motivates me to sit down and work on one is to either marathon a tv show or listen to an audiobook. Having engaging background noise keeps my butt in the chair. Of course this plan falls apart if I lose interest in the show/book, and then I escape my seat and start a brand new project.

    1. Thanks for the lovely compliment. I am much better at colors now because I made myself really work at it for this quilt series. I’ll post more about what I did/how I did it later (really soon, I hope, assume I can stick to my plan and get the other 3 quilts finished).

      I do get a lot of work done in front of the TV, but mostly spinning and knitting. Sewing is a different room. I like to listen to books on tape or occasionally music. Sometimes the books really keep me working, sometimes they don’t. Mostly it’s a question of focus and determination. I need to really want to get it done, and then it happens. Speaking of which, it’s time for me to go sew right now!

  4. I am a quilter, too. When I was married the first time we were quite poor so I had to make everything to decorate with so when I was able to I would buy clothing at the thrift store and make quilts…. always by hand. I eventually got a machine but not real good at using it. I have always hand sewed and hand quilted. The last quilt I made I hand sewed the quilt top – took 2 years and I wasn’t about to try and hand quilt it so I broke down and hired someone to machine quilt it. Unfortunately she didn”t listen to my instructions of how to lay the quilt out on the background so all I would have to do was fold the edges and sew the borders. I then had to hire someone to fix it, she did a good job. She knew the lady I hired to originally quilt it and was ticked because it wasn’t the first time she had to fix her work. This quilt cost me $200 to machine quilt and then get the mistake fixed! The next quilting project will be done totally by hand – I don’t trust those crazy people with the machine!

    1. Finding a good machine quilter for hire is worth the effort, as you unfortunately learned. I’ve never pieced by hand and appliqué is not for me, but I have hand-quilted a bed-sized quilt. I found it relaxing but slow.

      1. I find hand stitching a quilt top relaxing. Actually, I’ve always felt like I belonged to another era when it comes to crafts, I much prefer doing everything by hand except sewing clothes. I’ve just had a lady show me how to make a skirt. Now I need to make some more…. just wished I would lose about 40 lbs so I would look thin and pretty instead of chunky and cutish! 😀

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