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Sewing UFOs

My current and most pressing UFO, a dress made from BurdaStyle's Heidi pattern.

UFOs—UnFinished Objects—they exist for most sewers. Some of them were just too challenging for us at the time, or were set aside in favor of more pressing matters, or simply suffered from being too boring to interest us or have lost their urgency. No matter the reason, the average UFO usually can’t stand up to the excitement that accompanies newer projects. I have my fair share of them, although my plan has always been to finish them—someday.

But among every sewer’s UFOs, there’s usually at least one project worthy of completion. You just have to re-evaluate your UFO pile and consider the projects from a new perspective. Perhaps since you set it aside, you’ve acquired the skill and confidence to finish it or learned about an interesting embellishment that’s just the thing to bring it alive. Or maybe what bored you 6 months ago has simply become interesting to you again.

My current UFO, a dress that’s been in progress since February, has been sitting in my sewing room these past few months in plain sight nagging at my mind, and still I can’t work up the excitement for it I once had—although I’d love to wear it. But I recently learned a technique that I want to use to embellish its shaped pocket edges and am just waiting for the time to try it out so I can apply it to the dress and move forward with construction.

For many of us the upcoming July 4 holiday provides a nice long weekend. Maybe having that extra day will encourage us to tackle a UFO or two. Just think of the sense of accomplishment and relief that will come with no longer having that one item lingering in the corners of your sewing room (or wherever you stow set-aside projects) and instead hanging in your closet. It’s on my to-do list!

How do you handle UFOs? Do they sit around for a long time? Do you ever revisit your UFO pile? Have you recently completed a former UFO, either by following your original plan for it or by converting it into something else? Why did you originally set it aside? When do you give up on UFOs for good?


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  1. designsbydenise | | #1

    OMG, I can't believe your UFO is only 6 months old. I have UFOs that were "before Denver", so that means they're at least 9 years old. Perhaps if I hang on to them long enough they'll be in style again (although I'm pretty sure they won't fit ME). And while I have cut-out UFOs that are that old, I have some fabrics that are even older than that!

    I still haven't given up on any of my UFOs, but I tend to hang on to everything. My favorite pajama pants, which I just fixed last weekend by adding a new knit waistband with drawstring elastic, are at least 9 years old. And my husband is no better - we have the boxes for almost everything we've ever purchased that was bigger than a breadbox. :-)

    I'm sure they were originally set aside because other things got in the way - four kids and a major move can do that to you. I know where they are, they're safe in their own plastic containers, so perhaps this is the summer that I resurrect them and see if they're worth completing. And it might just be time to pull out that fabric/trim that was purchased to make cute little sailor outfits for my youngest two (who will both be old enough to drink in December). My granddaughter is starting Kindergarten in the fall and "grandma has the best clothes store"!

  2. dmatisz | | #2

    I tend to cut out 4 or 5 garments on a weekend and then work away at sewing them. My last cutting out blitz was just after Christmas and I still have a pair of trousers from that bunch that I haven't even started yet! That doesn't include the blouse, 2 jackets, tunic and dress that are in my sewing cupboard.

    I think I should get to work on them!

  3. learnergirl | | #3

    I'm working on a project that I cut out over 35 years ago! There was extra fabric from a Pendleton plaid fabric I used to make a bathrobe for my husband. I cut out a four-gore skirt from that extra. Then, we moved, and moved, and moved, and moved. Finally, now I've decided to see what I can do with it. Naturally, I'm much wider in the hips and waist, and the length I cut the skirt years ago is too short for me now. So, using the leftover scraps (I keep them all!), I've added a bias band at the bottom and then I'm covering it with microfiber suede by hand. Finally, I'm adding long wedges at the side seams of the plaid and, again, covering it with the suede cloth.

    My last major catch-up project was a vest made from wool boucle that was meant for a skirt for my daughter when she went to college in 1986! (I only got one piece of it cut out when I got sidetracked making a wedding gown!) Once I learned the technique of fusing the entire vest with knit fusible, I was on a roll. I'm very pleased with the vest and feeling very virtuous that I finally used up some of my fabric stash! Also, if I ever get the skirt done, I'll have a great outfit!

    My problem was working at a fabric store for seven years and buying remnants--many of them are still waiting! They were such good deals!

  4. LorettaDian | | #4

    I have about 20 of these hanging around. Most of them are worthy of being finished. I either ran out of time or I ran out of focus to finish them. Some had fitting problems. I do intend to try to finish them in about 3 months when I will have a huge block of time to try to get all the UFO items done so I can pack up my studio to move to NC. With some of them I ran out of fabric & had to try to find more of find something that worked instead. When I determine that the UFO will not be finished I will either throw the fabric away or give it away. I will often just return the pieces to the fabric stash to be visited later. If the fabric is good I keep it & if it is not so good I will "stash it" or throw it in the trash bin. If I have totally bad feelings about it overall I will get rid of it because I hate to make anything while I have negative thoughts.

  5. soxfan999 | | #5

    Oddly I have no UFO garments. I work on them from start to finish and enjoy wearing the finished garments. Quilts, afghans, pillows, curtains, are languishing and getting dusty! I haven't given away my knitting needles yet but have switched to crochet as I can use an ergonomic hook holder to make gripping easier. Needlework like cross-stitch and the like is no longer do-able either, those will be purged from my work room soon. MS has left me with clumsy fingers, sewing is still a joy!

  6. Lady Willoughby | | #6

    I am digging through my sewing closet today and coming across my UFOs. For example, there is a camp shirt that I nearly finished for my grand daughter out of batik fabric I bought in Martinique at least 10 years ago. I didn't finish it because it was too small for her by the time I put it together and she wasn't crazy about it anyway. I was crushed and wished I had used the fabric for a shirt for myself. And then there is a cute set of flannel pjs I cut out for her mother when she was about 8 years old. I have finally come up with a reason to finish these items: I will donate them to a relief organization, either through my church or a local group and some little one who has next to nothing can enjoy them. But first I have to put my sewing closet back together. :-)

  7. NoraBora | | #7

    Yes, mine is a princess seamed dress that was too big and I just can't seem to get up the steam to fix it.

  8. Lise_the_hobbit | | #8

    The oldest fabrics in the stash date back to the mid 1980s when I worked part time at a fabric store - I generally limited myself to bringing home no more than 1/3 of each paycheck in fabric. However, I have never had the luxury of buying on spec - I always knew what the fabric was intended for - some was for business attire, but I haven't had a job that needed business attire in 20 years; some is for square dance clothing, but I have gotten a lot of used clothing that I have altered instead; some for maternity clothes; etc.

    There have been a few projects that have been thrown away over the years but not many - generally a project gets set to one side in favor of a more urgent project, but I do come back to them; including some children's clothing that my girls outgrew before they were finished - once they were finished they got put in the bin of clothing for eventual grandchildren, along with all the clothing and costumes I made that my daughters and my sister's children have gone through that are still intact.

  9. Moonbeams | | #9

    I appreciate all of the comments of the UFOs. I don't know why, but I thought I was the only one who had these types of projects around. I have a blouse that will never fit now but I may be able to use the fabric for a doll outfit. I have a lovely quilted wall hanging that I was so excited about but life got in the way and now I don't have a place in which to hang it. And I have a lot of fabric even after I purged. I don't think I could live without fabric and patterns! LOL


  10. kajac | | #10

    My UFO is a skirt from a well used/loved Burda pattern. It has been unfinished for so long that I have gained and lost weight and I am not sure if it will even fit. It's a basic straight skirt that you could make in a day and I have made it several times. I think that was the problem, where was the challenge? At this point I am either going to pitch it or use the pieces for other projects.

  11. lizziesews | | #11

    About 10 years ago I wove some really funky yardage for either a long coat or long vest. I tried for several years to sew it and then contacted someone to do it. Turns out she didn't want to tackle it. ("Hand-woven" intimidated her.) I now have it cut out, discovered it had to have a lining and got that cut, too. However, I still can't make myself work on it because I've started Up-styling other things and am having such a good time with them. I really want to be able to wear it and while reading your article I've thought of a solution. There's a really good Spanish taylor in town and I'm going to take it to him! 10 years is long enough to wait to be able to wear my hand-woven.

  12. Soucieville | | #12

    My latest UFO is a blouse. I started it last year and really screwed up on it. I fused the interfacing to the wrong side of the fabric, a really nice cotton/rayon I'd been saving for a few years. So, cut a new front side eh. I didn't have enough fabric to do that. I put it away for a few days then came up with the idea of cutting off the facing and attaching a new one. Remember, almost all facings were sewn on, once upon a time, before the one piece facings came along. No problem, done. But the reason I was making the blouse came up and I didn't have the time to finish the blouse. I packed it up, with pattern, thread, all extra pieces of material and it's waiting. It's a long sleeve blouse, maybe I'll finish it this fall.

  13. bubbie | | #13

    The infamous UFO corner of the room. Had a function, very formal, to attend many, many moons age. Got some fabric I loved, to make a pattern I loved,, but for some reason approx 30 years later, it sits still half done.
    Will I part with it???????????? NUH UNH!!!!!!! No no no!
    Will it get sewn??????????? Couldn't fit into it anymore, but there it sits! Never to be worn, but lovely to look at!

  14. sewnutt1 | | #14

    How often do you make something and ultimately decide it looks too 'home-made'! I do complete it and then donate it to a reseller. Somewhere someone will like it better than I
    and will have a new, custom made garment.

    Recently I took apart four shantung formal skirts. They were purchased about 8 years ago at an outlet store and sat in the closet waiting to be worn or remodeled. I unassembled them, added a lining fabric in a print that connects the varied colors, and added another color of shantung from the local Field's Fabrics. I am in the process of making a jacket using all of the colors. No hurry because if the fabric sat thing long, it can wait for completion a little longer!

  15. BessKuzma | | #15

    I find that once I stop working on a project, it is difficult
    to return with the same enthusiasm that I once had. This morning I picked up my forty-year-old Bernina, serviced for the first time ever, and feel newly-invigorated to finish up some UFOs that have been half-finished for ages! For inspiration, try having your sewing machine serviced or repaired - or maybe even purchase a new one!

  16. 416 | | #16

    I wrap my UFOs in tissue paper with the pattern and place them in an unused luggage. Sometimes they do sit around for a long time but I do revisit the luggage from time to time when I have a need for a specific garment. I recently finshed a culotte skirt, a pair of shorts and top and a jacket. I didn't finish the culotte skirt as I had original planned, I added appliques to it and a sleeveless sweater to make a set. I did finish the shorts and top as planned. I lengthened the jacket so I could wear an overblouse underneath it. I may spend a week cutting out garments. I never sew the day I cut. This gives me a chance to really decide if I want to continue; give up for good, make something altogether different or give the fabric away. At some point, I have done all four.

  17. Sheri57 | | #17

    My UFO is a dress I started for my daughter - it is a girls size 3. (My daughter just got married at age 26.) My son now has a little girl, so I have a reason to finish the dress for my granddaughter!

  18. babysparkle | | #18

    I just howled when I read Sheri57, but after going through them all, I think learnergirl is the winner!!!

    UFO's? Right now my sewing room and laundry room are all torn up...cabinets ripped out, window seat gone, brick hearth removed, flooring gone 2 feet from outer wall, etc. We had to 'waterproof' our basement and are now working on getting it back together. All my UFO's were moved to hubby's train room. I know there's many but none over 35 years.

    Congrats, learnergirl. You were a fun read.

  19. User avater
    jennyebner | | #19

    Well, I found these postings most interesting. I am a compulsive finisher. It comes, I believe, from my mother who, when I was quite young and wanting to try everything and anything, would say to me, "You never finish anything, why start it?" And I decided then and there she would never have reason to say that to me again. I finish books I don't like and I finish garments I no longer like or want, and I give them away. My problem has been one that many also have and that is buying fabric with a specific project in mind, never getting around to that project and eventually no longer even liking the fabric. So in recent years, with a downsizing of our home and having a smaller sewing room, I go through the stash about once every 2 or 3 years and give the fabric to Good Will or the high school home ec class.

  20. curlysuzieq | | #20

    When I have a UFO in my possession, there is a pretty darn good reason: the cut, fit, style was all wrong for me. When I have the need to finish a small stack of UFOs, typically I refurbish them into something else that I end up LOVING! So, right now I have 2 UFOs. Both are UFOs because the pattern style I had hoped they would work for was totally wrong for me! I typically keep them in my line of vision so that I don't ever forget their presence. One day in the near future I will find the perfect permanent home. :)

  21. eulabea | | #21

    I think my U F O is probably the oldest. It is a "now I lay me down to sleep" embroidered quilt I started for my daughter when I was pregnant with her. She just celebrated her 49th birthday!

  22. User avater
    kvenkat | | #22

    UFOs are not alien to me. I have a box just for them. Most of them I would finish if I could find some more of the matching ribbon, thread or fabric I had used originally. If not, some projects can be repurposed. I only investigate the box when there is no new project that interests me, and that is as rare as a blue moon. Now, do not confuse my UFO box with my other boxes of uncut fabric set aside for specific future projects, LOL!

  23. Alsacea | | #23

    I buy a lot of fabric (I am a compulstive fabric buyer!), and these can stay in the drawer for a while. 2 weeks ago, I was travelling to San Francisco, and spent 3 hours and a fortune at Britex (http://www.britexfabrics.com)! Wow. What an amazing place!!! Lots of projects in mind, and hopefully none will become UFOs.

    When I get UFOs, it is usually because they were cut in the wrong fabric or cut too small.... then, what do you do with it? The fabric is great, but it won't fit!!!

    And then, there are those projects which turn so bad, you want to put them in file 13 (garbage). But then, you think: "This thing won't win over me. I will!" And you end up creating something that you had not planned for.

  24. suzi1230 | | #24

    My mom, an avid and talented seamstress, died in 1988 and my dad sent me her stash-- and along with it, her UFO's. Although I have finished some of her projects for my daughters-- and now their daughters-- the collection (and guilt)is still impressive. Add in my own UFO's-- more than a bit overwhelming.

    My daughters are now starting to sew... Soon we'll create a multi-generational UFO collection. Sigh.

  25. mesewlot | | #25

    One of my UFOs that comes to to mind is a skirt that I started 2 yrs. ago, it's a knock-off of a skirt that I saw in White House/Black Market. I think my UFO came to be because initially I didn't have the lining to complete it; then, I was uncertain of what it would really look like on me. But,I too, have had it staring at me for some time now. It's haunting me. It shows up in all of my pictures when I share the other garments I've made since starting this one. So,now, I think I want to give it a go again.
    It's funny because I have been thinking about start a UFO challenge on my website. So, when I saw this article, I knew it was a done deal.
    I am definitely starting that challenge to complete this skirt by the end of this month~ maybe my other sewing buddies will join me. :)

  26. kathis | | #26

    I think I may have the oldest UFO so far (head hung in shame). I started to sew a plaid pleated skirt in 1959. The fabric was a beautiful beige and cream wool plaid. The design of the plaid exceeds eight inches: not an easy thing to wear, especially for a slightly, hippy (as in size, not life style) high school junior. I pinned in the pleats and tried it on. Horrors, what could I have been thinking? About that time, the boy friend I was trying to impress left for greener pastures. The double failure sealed the plaid skirt's doom and I relegated it to the back of the closet. A few years ago, while clearing out my mom's house, I found a trunk filled with memorabilia: my blanky, my sisters' christening dresses, my brothers little sweater and my unfinished plaid skirt. I took it home and gave it a home with my other UFOs. I doubt I will complete it- if it looked bad on my relatively svelt 16 year old body, imagine what it would look like on my 69 year old one!

  27. Snikwas | | #27

    I recently unearthed such a garment. A length of crepy type polyester in a gorgeous deep amethyst- given to me by a friend about 5 years ago. I abandoned what I began from Burda Easy 2945 pattern (Just the top long flowing part- without the trousers). Then when my son announced his engagement I began researching 'Mother-of-the-bridegroom' outfits. Some considerable time later without inspiration, I revisited my amethyst project, & decided to re-model it. I needed sleeves, so drafted them from the Burda pattern - which worked perfectly. Then, as the material had lent itself to soft wavy edges when just zig-zagged on the machine, I wanted to incorporate this so the centre sleeves had channel seams down with wavy edges down the centre & the hems. The same was echoed in the side seams of the garment. I've used dupion silk in pale lilac as a cummerbund, which I've embroidered with the deep colour of the dress, lime green, and tiny rochelle beads, as well as putting the beading all round the hem & sleeve hem, plus the round neck. U'm very pleased with the result which I'll be wearing early next month at the wedding.

  28. User avater
    NovaScotiaNancy | | #28

    For UFOs do stackc of fabric count? If so then I have a lot of UFOs. From the lovely silks and cottons I brought back from India last year to the silk wovens I bought for jackets which now that I am retired I do not wear. But they warm my heart when I look at them and I can see the finished objects and know I will never lack for anything to do. Partial UFOs are really my quilting. My design board has an unfinished Ostrich quilt but the design is complete; in my mind. The piles of embroidered butterflies along with the stacks of cut fabric that will turn into 70 odd tulip squares that with the butterflies will be a quilt in the Exhibition in August. Then there are the quilt tops waiting in line to be quilted on my machine quilting frame as I learn to be more proficient on the baby quilt currently resident there. My UFOs are my constant companions as they are not confined to 1 but 3 rooms in the house so I see then constantly. Don't get me started on the knitted objects in the sunroom, the living room. I know from experience all will get done but somehow they leave a legacy of other objects that are UFOs. Not sure how that happens but I put it down to sewing fairies with too little to do.

  29. User avater
    DebraQuartermain | | #29

    with my last move and downsizing I have been forced to face my UFO's. It was an intervention long overdue! What was I thinking often comes to mind, even though I am tall and relatively slim, big yellow check does not work on anyone so...I have re-evaluated, donated some remanants and set myself the task of sewing up all fabric on hand before bringing any new in. I am off on a creative business trip next week so I needed of course a bolder artsy look. So far this week I have made two dresses with no yellow check in sight! Jazzed up two bags with fabric flowers and finishing another one today!

    Now if I can just walk past the fabric shop with my eyes closed I will be all set....

  30. User avater
    ustabahippie | | #30

    SO GLAD to see so many others with so many UFO's! I have piles of them. Sometimes I get started on re-purposing something and need to buy something to finish it. So there it sits until I remember to pick up that little item. And forget about it for YEARS! I recently started to go through this and have to say, I'm almost as bad as the person with the plaid skirt started in 1959! Maybe that skirt fabric should be made into a throw pillow!

  31. luvhouston | | #31

    I like to find someone who loves my UFOs, so I will often take the latest one with me to my American Sewing Guild meeting and offer it to anyone who wants it. Seems like a good way to pass them on and get rid of whatever frustration caused me to stop making the garment at the time....

    I've even given away finished items that just don't fit me after I've sewn them!!

  32. djulia | | #32

    OMG just got started with all by new fabrics and feel so blocked like now where do I turn? I've allready strted my put away problem #3 and now I'm asking myself what am I doing this for!! I'm addicted to all the the new ands old fabrics and I especially love Fall colors (working on a quilt now), with calicos and all earthy colors that I love and then I just freeze.... why is this happening? Geez!!

  33. Tolosano | | #33
  34. Tolosano | | #34

    Over a year ago I decided that I was going to organize
    my UFO's - each into a plastic container and marked outside
    what it was and for whom. I take one at a time and send it out for someone else to finish. My feeling is that I am
    getting up in years and I want my family and friends to get the item so who cares if someone else finishes it. Costs me
    money, but it is one less thing that I have to feel guilty about. I am not ashamed to tell my friends either so I
    don't fib about it. Jackie

  35. User avater
    dgray | | #35

    Yes, of course I have that stack of UFO's, but I've recently discovered a motivation to complete many of them. Charities. I finally admitted that most of the projects came to a halt for all the classic reasons - ill-fitting, oops, or just plain distractions. When I began noticing all the different initiatives requesting hand made items, it occurred to me there is hope for so many of my UFO's after all. I'll let you know how that goes...

  36. User avater
    Sewista | | #36

    Like another mentioned, I have no UFOs. While that may qualify one for sainthood, it won't in my case. When a downsizing move forced me to re evaluate a lot our possessions, the UFO pile was shameful. I chucked them all out and pledged there and then to only work on two projects at a time until completion. One project would be purely machine sewing, and the other project would be primarily a hand work project, ie, a smocked dress for a child. This has served me well, keeping me more focused and definitely completing more projects than previously. It also has made me face fit and technique issues head on. I won't jump to a new project when the fit is a bit off. Instead I am forced to face how to make it work. This combined with making muslins has really helped tame the UFO monster. I would say the biggest way to get rid of UFOs is to begin making muslins and to also confine yourself to one new technique per garment. Go muslins!

  37. Stillsewing | | #37

    I can relate personally to almost all of the comments made on this thread. I no longer have UFOs as years ago I found that if I did not finish one thing before starting a new project I seldom if ever returned to the first one. As I sewed because I could not afford to buy readymade (my, how things have changed!) I could not afford that type of waste. Times have changed, now that I can afford to buy or make (which is now of course the more expensive route) this is no longer my main incentive. However, if one was to count the stack of fabric that I have, this is probably an ENTIRE UFO.

    In the competition for the most aged UFOs I'm onto a winner, I did start a tapestry back in 1969 which I take out every so often and do some work on it. I lose heart though, as I do not have a use for it. I was going to use it as a firescreen but in the meantime I inherited a much nicer one. What to do?

    Get sewing and use up some fabric! that way the stack of fabric gets smaller quicker and the house a tiny bit bigger!

  38. fingersflying | | #38

    I love sewing and as a consequence I have many UFO's that need finishing so I decided to challenge myself over Lent. During the 40 days of Lent, many Christians give up something (coffee, tv, chocolate) so I decided that instead of giving something up, I would do something everyday and that was to complete 40 UFOs. This "challenge" and goal setting really helped me to focus and get things completed. Although many of these 40 projects weren't something I ended up liking, they were still finished and a new home was found for them.

  39. ichefdiane | | #39

    I am laughing and crying through all these soul-baring stories. My UFO stash is older than I am - and I am a senior.

    My Mom sold her large home about 9 years ago and after the family had packed up anything of value, I was welcome to help myself. My childhood bedroom was appropriately the storage room of old fabrics, old clothes, and UFOs. I salvaged several trash bags of memories; left over cuttings from high school dresses, paper patterns, and UFOs in every stage. Some things had deteriorated so much they had to be left behind, but each was reverently refolded and patted in goodbye. A mouses' pink silk nest was left undisturbed - home to a new mother and her daughters.

    The ensuing years have been too busy for much sewing, but I am glad for the time I was able to spend with my mom even if it was often doctor's visits and hospitals.
    In January Mom passed away and unfortunately left painfully unresolved issues. I thought I could not possibly heal from this pain. Then in June I started going through the UFOs still in plastic bags. I finished a tiny dress, framed a small piece of a quilt including its' threaded needle, and restrung the beads I know she had intended to repair. Every project she had started was with the unpredictable goal of "someday", so now each completion becomes that precious 'someday'. Each completion is my way of personally honoring her talent and connecting with her spirit. Our healing is unfinished, but will be 'someday'.

  40. User avater
    Mack007 | | #40

    Its new fabric designs

  41. User avater
    RihannaMills | | #41

    This is beautiful

  42. Amymoreno | | #42

    LOve this

  43. esteph6 | | #43

    good design

  44. User avater
    Jelkstrish | | #44

    This is awesome

  45. User avater
    DarylLee1 | | #45

    what a design

  46. User avater
    Albert_Robert | | #46

    This is nice

  47. Brunojohn | | #47

    Good :)

  48. User avater
    GeorgeHarris | | #48

    i don't understand the way you make it

  49. User avater
    kentparks25 | | #49

    I like your effort

  50. Arthurbrown | | #50

    Nice dress design

  51. User avater
    Keith Scott | | #51

    Friends now you can share you ideas with someone on

  52. User avater
    MatthewAnxiety | | #52

    Its really great , looks fabulous

  53. User avater
    LauraWilliams | | #53


  54. User avater
    KevinHuggins | | #54

    Its lovely

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