Monday, April 9, 2012

STASH ORGANIZATION: Part 3 - UFO's and Kits - Improving Their Odds of Being Finished Some Day

Quilt projects can be like relationships...we've all jumped into one or two too quickly or lost interest at some point.  With quilt projects, turned UFO's, at least we don't experience that awkward "I-just-ran-into-him (her)-in-public" moment...maybe just a head slap or twinge of "what was I thinking when I started (or bought) THIS?!?"

UFO's can be a source of embarrassment and shame for many quilters.  I gave that up.  I freely admit to having 31 UFO's in various degrees of doneness in my stash, right now...full disclosure.  They range from partially cut out to needing binding. how do I make the most of my UFO and collected kits situation?

Well, keeping them organized can be most of the battle.  If they are organized and easily approachable when I have a few minutes to sew, they have a better chance of having their shame status changed to "DONE."

Where to start? 
  • LOCATE - go through your stash and find ALL UFO's and kits (time to fess up and face the music...)
  • FIND ALL PIECES OF EACH UFO/KIT - are the blocks here, the borders there , and the binding no where to be seen?
  • LABEL EVERYTHING YOU CAN (before you forget MORE important details...)
  • SORT AND BE BRUTALLY HONEST - divide your sorting space in half...the UFO's you still want to finish on one side, the ones you've "fallen-out-of-love-with" on the other side
  • PURGE - either find another home for the unwanted projects or re-purpose them
  • SCOPE OUT A STORAGE LOCATION IN YOUR SPACE - even if your space is small, make sure UFO's are prominent - let's face it, it's hard enough to work on them WITHOUT having to dig for them...out of sight equals out of mind
  • CONTAINERIZE - as long as each UFO is in labeled bag, zippered pouch, etc., they could be placed in one BIG container if you don't want to give each one a separate container
  • SET GOALS - set REASONABLE goals - choose one thing and finish, didn't that feel good?

I post about UFO's to give you hope, not to shame you...and to give those worthy projects a fighting chance.  I'm sprinkling in pictures of some of my UFO's (see? you aren't alone!). 

So now you have sorted them all...did you find projects that don't excite you anymore?  Look at each one honestly and decide if you are going to fish or just cut bait...put each project in the "to do" pile or the discard pile. shame in putting things in a discard pile.  You have many choices:
  • give it away - have a quilter's "swap meet" with your buddies
  • garage sale - I LOVE stumbling on a quilter/crafter's garage sale!
  • re-purpose the pieces - if you have only cut things out, can you use the pieces in another project?
  • re-purpose the constructed parts - can you turn the blocks and units that you've finished into smaller project(s) a table runner, wall hanging, coasters, etc.?  can you finish it in a smaller version as a donation quilt?
  • feed the freebie scrap box at your LQS or put components in baggies, distribute to scrappy quilts you know, and watch the smiles erupt!
  • simply throw it away - maybe the project is so old, the fabrics so dated, the construction so poorly done (we all become better quilters with time, don't we?)...sometimes the only decent thing to do is walk away
OK, so now you've done a sort, and hopefully found all the pieces...a word about labeling.  If you are going to have a project on the shelf for a while, maybe it's a good idea to do some labeling before you forget important details.

I love freezer paper for labeling things that might sit for a while.  Masking tape, even painter's tape, will leave a sticky residue on fabric over time.  Many LQS's label their blocks-of-the-month with masking tape.  Hey, THEY didn't know you were just being "squirrel-ish" at this time, putting "nuts" away for later construction.  You may need to re-label that BOM before putting it on the shelf.  This also works GREAT for that kit you just bought...more and more shops are putting together kits for customers.  Just make sure you understand and label the kit components before you squirrel them away.

Quilt shops deal with SO MANY fabrics, BOMs and kits...don't count on them to be able to sort out your project when you finally get around to making it!

If you are worried about the freezer paper coming off, don't be a afraid to use a hot iron!  When I use freezer paper when doing glue stick applique, sometimes my freezer paper looks a little scorched!
Experiment with your freezer paper to determine how much ironing is required for good temporary adhesion between the shiny side of the paper and your fabric.  Sometimes the finish on unwashed fabric can hinder this adhesion, or the quality of the freezer paper (hence my need for scorching sometimes- don't worry, the paper will scorch before your fabric!).

I just peeled this label off (then I re-ironed it).  It really works.  I label everything now...I can't tell you how many times I've run across a stack of squares or strips that I started cutting out that I have NO MEMORY OF!  Now I iron a little note to the top piece in the stack. 

I have started inserting an index card in all projects where I write the name, the start date, and jot any other important details.  It goes in the box or bag with the project. 

Sometimes I cut swatches of prominent fabric with my pinking shears and I staple, or clip, them to the index cards.  I will use these swatches later when I archive the finished project (it takes no time to snip these swatches now, when I have the fabrics out...later it would take too much time to go searching for the fabrics). 

If I am working from a book, I write down the book and page number on the card.  If I am working from a doodle or piece of graph paper, it goes in the box.  If I used a project pulled from a magazine, I put the magazine, or removed pattern in a sheet pocket protector, in the bag or box as well.

I then label the container, bag, whatever, with an index card and a fat black marker.  I place the index card label INSIDE the container or bag and use the contents to hold it in place.

This is not a permanent label.  When this project is finished and no longer needs a container, I want an effortless transition...reusing the container for the next thing without scraping off the label.

A good temporary storage container for a UFO can be a pizza box (clean, unused please, big grin).  They don't take up that much space, stack nicely and uniformly, can be recycled easily either in your stash or in your household garbage, can be big enough to store finished blocks (without folding your nice, pressed, finished blocks), and they are cheap!  I have used these before in my stash and when doing group projects.  I am fortunate to live in an area with a GFS, a place that sells bulk food, restaurant items and disposables.  Maybe some buddies will share the cost of a small bundle (very reasonable!) and you can have a box-folding party (and order a pizza!).

I have bought them directly from pizza place didn't even charge me for the handful I requested.  Almost every small town has a pizza place!  I either write directly on the box with my fat black marker or use masking tape.  When I reuse the box, I just add another layer of tape on which to scribble a new label.

Some of my UFO's are l-o-n-g-t-e-r-m quilt projects...scrappy in design, the containers "fed" every time I have just the right scraps to cut up.  These quilts will be log cabin-, postage stamp-, or half square triangle-rich gems, and every day I am closer and closer to being able to finish one (my applique basket project, pictured above, is also in this category).

I have 120 green and neutral log cabin blocks ready to go, along with a handful of scrappy, free-pieced heart blocks.  The decision about the final, outer border is what is holding me up on this one.  The right decision will come to me one day, then I will take that container of blocks down, and get it done.

Cleaning up this part of your stash will make you feel better about planning future projects.  Some times the dark corners of what we are saving can really drain our creativity and fill us with all kinds of dark feelings and guilt that can kill our quilt muse.

Slowly, but surely, I am attacking the UFO's.  They don't stop me from starting new projects.  I know I will get to them...sometime.  In the spirit of REALLY coming clean, I will share that I have never finished the first quilt I is my oldest UFO.  

I started it in August of 1982, right after my terminally ill, beloved Grandmother gave me her last quilt...a Grandmother's Flower Garden (not pictured here), hand-pieced by her from my sewing scraps, which she had asked me for (I had no idea what she was up to!), and hand-quilted by her quilting group.  I was almost 22, and swore to myself that I was going to learn to quilt, to carry on her legacy.

Naturally, as a stupid, impatient, "invincible beginner," I picked wisely for my first project...also a Grandmother's Flower Garden, hand-pieced (NOT by English paper piecing, but turning those Y-seam corners...).  Dumb-dumb-dumb...

I used what I had...scraps of crazy, bright, cotton/poly blends and the old royal blue, cotton/poly curtains that I had sewn to hang in my college dorm room when I first started at Auburn (school colors are orange and blue, afterall...).  I had a few 100% cotton calicoes, but looking back now they were awful!  What was I thinking...

This thing is so bright that it vibrates and hums.  I have an arrow pointing to the curtain fabric (that blue poly blend NEVER faded...even after hanging in the windows of a sunny, southern University dorm room for 3 years!)  The other arrow points to the date I started I will EVER forget this nutty story!  Oh, I will finish it some homage to my Grandmother and to just be able to say that I did it.

Have courage (and be gentle and forgiving with yourself!) if you choose to work on this part of your stash!  The next installment of this organization-a-palooza will discuss tool/supplies storage and equipment set up.

In Stitches,
Teresa  :o)


  1. I think if I had all these UFO's I wouldn't be able to get out of the bed in the morning. I thought I had a lot to do LOL!
    How do you keep from being overwhelmed?

  2. Excellent post on how to deal with the UFO's. I love the idea of labeling it serves a couple of purposes. One you can pick up where you left off. Second if you choose to gift the UFO, the receiver has a shot of a finish.

  3. Another wonderful organizational posting. Love the idea of the labels by freezer paper. I purged my UFOs last year - all but 6 that simply need a long armer's mastery.

  4. So the first thing I need to do is cut a couple of hundred freezer paper "notes" so they are handy as the UFO sorting and pieces begins.... I can do that!

  5. I use the same kind of storage boxes for my works in progress. I was motivated by you and Bonnie Hunter to get my scraps in order and I started with shoe box #1 this week - 9 more boxes and one bag wait in line. I will try to get this organized this summer.

  6. I loved to see your ufo's. You have some GREAT projects in progress. I like the one you called Wildest Dreams - I remember seeing it in AP&Q and at the time I thought "I love that but only in my wildest dreams would I ever finish it" I still take the picture out every once and a while... :0)

  7. I own a pizza restaurant and alot of scrapbookers ask for boxes... good idea for quilting too!

  8. I am starting to collect containers--($$$!!!)I don't have anywhere near the amt of fabric you do, but things still get "lost in space" (Danger, Will Robinson, Danger"--remember that one? )AND I still have a hard time separating prints--one day they look mostly blueish and the next day greenish etc....I have a "Go Baby" (now I wish I had the big one!!) and so, have to cut my strips by rotary method--but I LOVE your posts --thanks so much for sharing....Julierose

  9. Bless your heart, Teresa, you are an inspiration!

  10. Love your ideas! What a fun post :o)

  11. I think your old Grandmother flower garden would look good tied with a bright thread, in the centres and then the 'corners' of the blue, where they connect to the flowers. Thanks for these posts they are great, my husband is in awe of your organisation too. I keep showing him the shelves and containers (hint hint then he might not get a surprise when things like that start appearing around here!)

  12. Just discovered your blog last week, as it was mentioned by another that I read regularly. Your tips for organization are great and I'm really enjoying reading your posts. You've inspired me to get better organized! Donna

  13. I never thought of freezer paper for the labels. I know enough not to use masking tape! I will start using the recipe cards for notes now too. that will save a lot of brain energy.

  14. Well, I don't have 31 UFOs but I do have 13. I also have 22 quilt tops waiting for me to hand quilt them. I really like your index card idea about writing the date started, the name of the pattern, and where it can be found. This will save a lot of time and rethinking when I'm ready to attack one of these projects. I bought a 6-8 yards of a particular line years ago. Like you said, I fell out of love with it so I donated it to a begining sewing class and you'd have thought I'd given them the world. It was so satsifying. They even took a picture of themselves with their finished projects to show me.

  15. Hey, I have that box of unfinished appliquéd baskets too! I love this series of posts. Thanks, Sue

  16. Variety is the spice of life. I keep my WIPs in bags I've made in a couple of tubs. They are easy to get to that way. One of the things I like about WIPs is that they are something I can just pick up and sew when I am in the mood, without all the preparation of picking fabric, a pattern, cutting out etc. That's not to say I don't like starting new projects, because that is fun, too. I also keep a list of my WIPs on my blog, too, as a reminder of what I have.

  17. I so love how you have organized them they look nice stacked up like that. I love your headervquikt. Can u share the name with me?

  18. Love your organization ideas!

  19. These are great tips....thank you so much for sharing!

  20. Great tips here! Thank you so much for sharing!

  21. Love the freezer paper label idea. Thanks for sharing your organizing tips.

  22. Fantastic post full of wonderful tips and tricks :-)

  23. Thanks for sharing all your ideas, a real inspiration.
    Love the freezer paper for notes idea.

  24. Yup. LOVE using pizza boxes for quilt blocks. We do this in my kid sewing summer camps. I also use one of those giant coolers on wheels as a sewing tote. So it always looks like a big party when I arrive to work with a cooler and pile of pizza boxes. hehehe.

  25. Freezer paper labels--I love it! Thank you.....I can't tell you how many times I've pulled a piece out of my stash and then couldn't remember what'll it was intended for something specific or not.

  26. Great tips for those of us overwhelmed by our UFO mountains!

  27. Could you come to my house to do all this for me?


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