Tuesday, October 11, 2016

UFQ Assault Tactics

One of my most popular and long running guild lecture programs is UFQ (unfinished quilts) Assault Tactics.  I created this program after I closed my shop, Erie Street Quilts, in 2005.  Since I'd spent 26 years helping customers start UFQ's, it seemed only right that I should turn my attention to helping them finish them.  This fall I'm presenting the lecture several times and so it's much on my mind and I thought some of my readers might find my ideas useful, too. 

Over the past decade, I've seen more and more teachers and guilds turn their attention to the piles and piles of UFQ's that lurk in everyone's stitching lives.  My ideas comes from my own efforts to whittle away at my own piles so I guess you could say they have been tested for viability?   And based on the occasional feedback I get from quilters, they work for others as well. 

Many times, I've heard quilters say things like "I'm not starting any new projects until I finish all my old ones".  Quilters don't smile when they make that statement and it's one that always makes me cringe -- it takes all the fun and excitement out of being a quilt maker.  It sounds like quilting suicide to me.  Better to finish one before you start one -- at least then you'll stay even.

A more productive approach is to reframe your definition of UFQ and view them as a "resource" rather than the "burden" that they can be.  When defined as a "resource", it gives each one new potential and possibilities and increases their value in your mind. 
Makes working on them feel less like housework and more like creative play!!

Each UFQ now has the possibility to become the starting point for a gift, or a donation, or a way to raise some extra cash for a vacation or to invest in new fabric!?!

Let me share three examples with you from my own work.

One of my favorite tactics to getting a UFQ finished is to go with what I have and get it finished. 

How many of you have this popular BOM project started -- it's from the 90's?  I only pieced one of the blocks in the first place (my Friendship group pals made the other 11) but between slogging through the embroidery and applique details and being unhappy with my large center pieced square, it laid on the shelves for years. 
Finally, I gave in and settled for fewer details and no central square -- you can read more about this finish HERE.  I love this quilt and it hangs in my dining room every spring.
This is the photo of a fabric line model that I made for a company around 2003 -- the fabric designer designed the pattern and I made it and wrote the instructions.  My staff and I finished one and started a second to use in the shop.  The second came home in a box unfinished when I closed in 2005.
Two years ago, I went with what was pieced and created this little crib sized quilt to donate to our annual Christmas gift project.  The guilt of stumbling across this pile of pieces and fabric is now gone (yeaaa!!) and BONUS, I still have all that gorgeous large print with the swallows in my stash!! 
How about this BOM?  I still love this quilt but I only started it. 
And I love this quilt, but I only bought the pattern book and a fabric kit. 
Happily, the two piles collided in this masterpiece which I love even more and it's finished!  I shared the story of it's creation HERE.  BONUS -- I sold the set of BOM chicken patterns and the Japanese book that had the basket sampler pattern to benefit my vacation fund!!  
The moral of the story -- you can still create a great quilt with fewer blocks and a different arrangement of the blocks you were able to get made.  Eliminate elements of a project that are holding you back, consolidate projects that have compatible colors and fabric styles.  Do whatever it takes to get that UFQ off the shelves and onto a bed or a wall!!  You will not be punished for doing it "your way" and you'll make some creative discoveries along the way that will have a positive impact on your future quilt making!! 
If your guild is interested in booking this lecture in the future, have your program chair person get in touch with me!
Let's have fun with those UFQ's!!


  1. Great ideas. I am passing this post to our VP as a future program idea. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Thank you for some really excellent ideas! I know I've got boxes of blocks stored away somewhere that could use a re-examination and repurpose.

  3. Lots of people seem to have problems with their UFOs, so your lecture sounds like an excellent idea. Your suggestions here are very practical.

  4. Great idea and encouragement, Mary. I, too, have plenty of UFOs. I'll be looking at them differently now. Was fun to go back to those you linked. Thank you.

  5. You have great ideas! I have many scrappy UFQ's in a tub and I don't feel guilty. They'll get completed sometime, I just have to be in the mood. I like the BOM wallhanging you made without the center better than the original design. Thanks for sharing! Blessings, Gretchen villacrestfarm@gmail.com

  6. Lots of helpful suggestions here for those with many UFOs, also for only one or two UFOs - the same principles apply.

  7. Mary, these finishes are lovely. We share the method " use what you have started and get it done!"

    Thanks for this great post.

  8. Your little village is gorgeous! I love each house in it. :-)

  9. Good advice: Do whatever it takes to get that UFQ off the shelves and onto a bed or a wall!! 
    Or, in my case, even a pouch! :)

  10. Great advice! And I love your finished projects, especially the chicken and basket quilt!

  11. Thanks for the ideas. I have been slowing working on my list of UFQs and look forward to trying out your approach.

  12. I love how you finished your UFO's. They look amazing and now are unique, one of a kind beauties.