Tag Archives: UFO

Drawers 8 and 9

I’ve slowed the drawer review (here and here) while working on other things. But it’s a useful exercise for me, uncovering some works in progress I’d stalled on, at the least, or forgotten completely at the worst.

One of the things I’d forgotten was a stack of 9-patch parts in red and light/neutral. They made up seven blocks, which is a difficult number to use by itself. Nine-patches are pretty easy to emulate, though, so last week I made another ten of them using different reds. I still had some of the light fabric, but not enough for ten more blocks, so I subbed in a couple of things that blend well. Besides the 9-patches, I made a set of 18 hourglass blocks. The hourglass blocks and 9-patches now alternate in a 5×7 block setting. With a border, they made up a perfect top for another VA hospital quilt. I’ll finish it in January for donation through my guild.

Besides the VA hospital quilt using those orphaned patches, I’m also working on an art quilt, which is also a medallion quilt. Or it’s a medallion quilt that also is an art quilt. No photos now, as I’m still feeling protective, but I’m quite pleased with it so far.

Back to the drawer review. As mentioned before, under my cutting table I have three plastic drawer units on casters. Each unit has three drawers. Over this past year when I’ve needed to mimic order in my studio, I’ve stuffed a lot of things in those drawers. It clears the surfaces, which helps me creatively! But truly it just moves the mess elsewhere, doesn’t it?

I already showed you Drawers 1 through 7. They held a broad range of things, from scraps and parts to plastic zip bags, to some intriguing projects in process.

Drawer 8 mostly holds faded intentions and motivations, along with a lot of fabric that needs to be sorted back into the stash bins. A friend of mine, Kristin, lived for several years in Wales. While there she fell in love with Welsh quilts. They are notable for the amazing hand quilting on both pieced and wholecloth quilts. Though often not made from solids, the pieced quilts are often compared to American Amish quilts, and it’s not clear, historically, to what extent designs were shared and in what direction. Many of the Welsh pieced quilts are in the medallion (or “frame”) format, so they hold extra attraction to me.

Kristin will be presenting to our local quilt guild soon about Welsh quilts. As she shared some of the information with me early in the year, I got inspired to try making quilts in the same style. I even bought this lovely book on making them. As you can see from the cover, many of the designs are for medallions. And while I love the rich, deep colors you see here, I also wondered about making them with brighter, cheerier colors.

A mixture, I thought, of greys with pinks and yellows would keep some of the traditional flavor, while also demonstrating that the format is beautiful regardless of colors used. But I also was taken with the Welsh tradition of using shirtings and suit woolens. I went to a local thrift shop and bought several shirts, including in pink gingham and yellow floral print, to use. I made one lovely little quilt (to show you another day) before losing energy and motivation. Now the fabrics, including some blacks and reds, need to be sorted back into stash.

Drawer 9 The final drawer is where I stuffed the Green Man drawings. This is another project I hope to return to in 2020. 

Now that I know what is in these drawer units, I can put some things in better places, and make a list of ongoing projects. Knowing what’s here will help me use my time better, so I can create in more satisfying ways.

Drawer 7

My last post, Getting It Out in the Open, surveyed six of nine plastic drawers in my studio. Over the past several months, the drawers have been victims of entropy. “Entropy” is a great word. Do you know what it means? It is a physics term, a noun. One of its more general meanings is “a gradual decline into disorder.” Life is often like that, isn’t it?

In fact, the first six drawers were just about as ordered as they ever are. It’s the last three that have suffered. Here is Drawer 7, and this is where things start to get interesting.

First up is a few tidbits cut from some beautiful African fabric I bought a few years ago at a quilt show. I have a basic plan for these but haven’t gotten to them yet. That’s a basic oatmeal-colored carpet underneath it. 

Next, a semi-secret project I’ve had kicking around in my head for a few years. The photo did bizarre things to the color here, which I wasn’t able to correct. Nor was I motivated to try taking the picture again. The background fabric is a lovely blue ombre I purchased maybe last year. Not terribly long ago, but this year is quite a blur, so I’m not sure. It is intended to look like the sky at just past sunset, so if you can push that color into your brain, you’ll get what I see. Most of the images on the background will be darkened, not quite to silhouette, with a house or shed on the left and windmill on the right. The central image is the secret part, so you might not see it until someday rolls around and it is done.

Also in this drawer is my mask man. I still don’t have a good plan for it. 

Finally, the rest of the stuff in the drawer is various leftovers from the Wind River Beauty project. 

I really need to sort through it. The bigger pieces can be restashed and the little ones go to scraps. I finished the top in February and had it on the frame to quilt before the end of the month. Here it is, loaded and ready to go.

I wasn’t happy with how it was going, and I hated the backing fabric. (Note to self: don’t use backing fabric you hate just because it’s big enough and you don’t want to buy something new. It’s a false economy.) Also I needed to move along to the new grandbaby’s quilt, so I took it off and unstitched the quilting. When we got back from the baby trip, I loaded it again with a new back. Again I was unhappy with the stitching, so removed it and unstitched it again.

Right now, Wind RIver Beauty is the only unquilted top I have left from the year.

Two more drawers, and a few other things, left to review.

 

Union

So much of last year was a blur. Because Jim and I were gone a lot, and because of the quilts I chose to make, I made fewer than I usually do. Three of them were particularly time-consuming and spread out over a long time.

One took especially long because it started last year as a UFO. By early July I had the top done. And some time in late August the top was quilted. But I think it was December before I finally got the binding on.

Its name is “Union.” Many quilts seem to name themselves, and occasionally I’ve asked you for help with names. This one took a lot of thought. The overriding factor in its name has to do with the six-pointed star, or hexagram that centers it.

The caption of the image in the wikipedia entry:  “A regular hexagram, {6}[2{3}]{6}, can be seen as a compound composed of an upwards (blue here) and downwards (pink) facing equilateral triangle, with their intersection as a regular hexagon (in green).”

In other words, the hexagram is the union of two equilateral triangles.

The symbol has been used for centuries around the world and within many religions. Many of us are familiar with the Star of David in Judaism, but it also is an important symbol in Eastern religions such as Buddhism and Hinduism. In Christianity, it is called the star of creation. Islamic artifacts and mosques feature it, as well.

Besides the religious connections, there are many others. If you watched the movie based on Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, you saw the interlocking triangles used to indicate “the divine union of male and female energy, where the male is represented by the upper triangle and the female by the lower one.”

Union. To me, the six-pointed star, which began this quilt and literally centers it, represents union or connection. We are all connected.

Union. Finished December 2017. Photo by Jim Ruebush.

The photo shows it is a bit ripply. This is due to the wool batting. I used remnants of wool from other projects. Some of it was thick and resilient, and some of it was very thin. Because of the irregularity of density and loft, I just kept stuffing more wool in as I went, trying to get a fairly consistent thickness through the whole quilt. Besides the rippliness, this has to be the heaviest quilt I’ve ever made.

Here are a few close-up pix to show the quilting and the loft provided by the wool.


This quilt was a puzzle from the beginning, which is why it started 2017 as a UFO. After a long journey, it is finished. It’s not a perfect quilt. When I look at it, I know there are things I would do differently if I were doing it again. Nevertheless, I’m pleased with how it turned out.

How to Finish UFOs

After speaking with friends about their UFO piles, I decided to republish this post from early 2016. Remember, YOU get to decide what “finished” means. It can simply mean, there, dammit, I’m FINISHED with this thing! 

For me, I have a small number of UFOs going right now. The six star points shown at the bottom of the post are no longer a UFO — except I haven’t bound the quilt yet! 


UFO: Unfinished Object; an art or crafting project that was begun but not finished, with some extended delay in making progress toward completion. The creator still intends to complete it, differentiating it from an abandoned project. UFO is a common term in quilting and knitting, but can apply to other creative endeavors such as writing, scrapbooking, painting, etc.

Over the last year or so, I’ve seen a lot more emphasis in quilting blogs on UFOs. Last year was a movement toward “A Lovely Year of Finishes,” complete with a button, goal setting, and linky parties. This year’s version is “One Monthly Goal,” or OMG. I love that these encourage quilters to complete their projects, just as Stashbusters has been doing for years.

But the question often comes up of what to do with projects you DON’T WANT TO FINISH. It just isn’t going to turn out the way you’d imagined, or it’s boring beyond tears, or you hate the process, or it was intended for someone not in your life anymore. In truth, you want to abandon it, but you don’t want to be a quitter, or don’t want to waste the effort or materials already used. What then? How to FINISH those unfinished objects?

The first thing to remember is that quilting is supposed to be rewarding and positive, not stressful and upsetting. If you look at a project and a black cloud appears above it, it might be time to make another decision. It doesn’t matter what resources already went into it. It’s too late to change that. What matters is what resources you put into it now, including time, energy, and material.

You have choices. One choice is to make a quilt of a different design than originally planned. What you do might depend on how much you have done. Do you have some blocks made? Can those blocks be assembled into a top, maybe of a smaller size or with a different setting? With sashings if there weren’t any in the original design, without if there were? On point, or with unpieced alternate blocks?

If you imagine your setting as a big 9-patch, you only need 4 or 5 pieced blocks, alternated with something else, to create a small quilt. It could be a lap quilt or a baby quilt or a doll quilt, or a table mat. A narrow table runner might need even fewer blocks.

Maybe you were part of a swap and found the blocks you received vary substantially in size. You can frame all the blocks with one fabric and then trim them to a consistent size. Then use the same framing fabric for sashing. No one will ever see the differences in size. The BEST book for dealing with swap blocks and other setting problems is Setting Solutions by Sharyn Craig. (I do own the book now.)

Maybe you signed up for an appliqué block of the month, but found you hate appliqué. If you have at least one, lovely big block, say 12″ or larger, you could make a medallion quilt with the block as the center.

Other options for a small number of blocks include a tote bag, mug rug, or placemats. My guild members make placemats for Meals on Wheels every couple of years, and nursing homes often use small quilts as door decorations for residents.

Or you could give all the blocks to someone else. Or use them as practice pieces for your free motion quilting.

If you have part of the top already assembled and don’t like where it’s going, try something new. My friend Mary at Zippy Quilts shows some great saves on improv projects she’s done.

What if you proceed and make a quilt top, what then? You can finish it and keep it, repurposing the quilt for something else. Make pillow covers or a travel bag, like Carole at From My Carolina Home. Or give the quilt to a friend or relative who would like it, donate it, make a cat bed out of it… Or don’t quilt the top. Donations often are appreciated at your real-world guild. My guild finishes a lot of unquilted tops for donations to local organizations. And once a year or so, we hold a fund-raiser auction. My friend Karen bought a beautiful quilt top at the January auction. She’s already quilted and bound it. Now she’ll give it back to the guild for a community donation quilt.

If you don’t have blocks or parts made, but simply have a pattern and fabric pulled together, take it all apart. Restash the fabric if you want. Or if the fabric gives you bad memories or no longer meets your quality standards, give it away, too.

Finishing UFOs does not require making a quilt. Finishing can mean throwing them away or passing them on. You can put them in the burn bin, you can wash the car with rags made from them. Finishing means declaring you are DONE with that project. Then it is NOT a UFO, it is a FO, Finished Object. DONE.

The most important thing to remember with UFOs is there is NO ONE who gets to decide how they are finished or disposed of, except you. If you don’t want to finish it, don’t. Life is too short to spend it on stuff (like this) you don’t want to do. If you don’t make the quilt, no one will die and no one will go to jail. NO bad thing will happen.

Here is my one UFO. Yes, one. This one got stuck because I didn’t know how to set and border the 6-pointed star. Now as I look at it, I don’t love it, or the idea, as much as I did when I started it. I’m not ready to abandon it, but I probably won’t hurry to finish it, either.

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Tell me about your UFOs. What stops you from finishing? And how do you get them going again?

What Is Your Next Quilt?

How do you choose your next project? Do you decide based on deadlines, such as special occasions or upcoming classes? Or do you pick an exciting new pattern, an old UFO, or a great piece of fabric to get you moving? What motivates your choice?

It’s a question about priorities. Digging a little deeper, it’s a question about why you quilt. Do you quilt to please yourself, or to meet obligations, or from a sense of guilt?

I’ve made guilt quilts. That isn’t necessarily a bad choice, but the main reward is in simply finishing. There usually isn’t the sense that “it’s all about the journey.” Sometimes I quilt to meet obligations, usually self-imposed. But these days I quilt mostly to please myself.

Sometimes I wonder what to choose as my next project. What will please me most? I’m not always very good at choosing between competing temptations. There are projects I’ve long wanted to do and continually think, “that’s the next one.” There are a couple of UFOs in one drawer, and several yards of scraps in another. Both drawers call to me. There are class samples to make, as well.

I usually choose either what is most urgent or what is easiest to lay my hands on. Neither is necessarily the one that will satisfy me most.

***

When my son was in first grade, his teacher’s philosophy on reading was the children should choose from a Goldilocks variety of books: some books should be a little too hard, some should be too easy, and some should be just right. The variety allows students the pleasures of speed, of comprehension, and of challenge. That philosophy can work well for quilting, too.

Usually I don’t pick quilt projects that are “easy,” but I have made several disappearing 9-patch quilts, and I will make them again. They are easy to execute and always turn out well. Most of my projects are in the “just right” and “rather challenging” groups. I enjoy extending my skills and figuring out ways to make my work fresh and interesting, while still looking like “me.”

Right now I have three projects, all somewhat defined, to consider. I might not choose but work on them concurrently. One is a UFO that I’ve taken apart to blocks. The blocks are not symmetrical, so their arrangement makes a big difference in how they look together. It should be in the “just right” category, aside from settling on design.

I’ve taken the borders off and separated the blocks. All the parts are pressed and ready to reuse, as soon as I have a good plan.

Another has been in my head for at least three years. I’ve put it off because, to me, it is hard. The third is a class sample for my October medallion class.

How do you choose your next project? Are they intended for growth or for fun, or some combination of the two? Are you most motivated by deadlines or sew-alongs or challenges issued by your guild? What gets you going?