Ask Jo: My UFOs

Every so often questions and comments come from readers that I think others would like to hear my response to.  That’s when I feature them on the blog.  This is one of those days. Today’s questions touch on my UFOs.

In the comment section, Hedy said:
I think a blog post about why you have 18 UFO would make interesting reading. This particular quilt is incredibly beautiful and I can see why you finished it. I’m looking forward to seeing what else is going to be finished soon. Your quilts always are just beautiful.”

I decided I would take a moment and address my 18 UFOs. It’s a bunch and I know it is.

I have that many for a lot of reasons and I’m hoping to share a few examples of the whys and hows. First off, I was working on this quilt…

This is really not my UFO. This is my daughter Kelli’s UFO. I’m just a nice mom and finish stuff for my kids.

Another that was on my original 2023 UFO list was this one…now finished. The name of this quilt is Tea Party from American Jane. You can read all about it HERE.

This one was my daughter Kayla’s UFO…but it too was on my UFO list.

I’m just a nice mom. When the kids get stuck on a project, I finish it for them. They don’t ask me to. I offer…thus their UFOs become my UFOs.

Another project of my UFO list originated with Kelli. It’s my oversized flying geese project. Kelli, my daughter, was going to throw away some hour glass blocks as she made them when she first started sewing the seams were less than ideal. In fact, they were bad. I ended up trimming them down so all the seams were okay and they were the same size. I came up with this block. You can see the hourglass block in the center of this block.

I ended up making this quilt top. To date, it’s not yet machine quilted. I think this needs some custom quilting and I’ve put that off. So frugality made me take this project on and fear of custom quilting has made the top stall out…and I don’t have a backing for it. Nothing in my stash works with it so once I find a sheet or break down and spend the money for a backing it might stay in the UFO pile of flimsies.

In reality…many UFOs that originated with other people have become my UFO projects. I certainly don’t have to accept them, but I’m happy to. I don’t have a huge budget and I’m perfectly content to sew other people’s cast-offs. I like the challenge of it. I think it builds my imagination and has me working “out of my box”. That is true with this project…It was a January 2023 finish.

A blog reader sent me two big boxes of unfinished or leftover pieces. These were hourglass blocks…and not a lot of them. I’m guessing 65 or so.

I worked and they became this…I made MANY more hourglass blocks from my own stash. I love this quilt…and love the border I came up with.

My red bow tie quilt was another bath of blocks the same blog reader sent. Most of the bow tie blocks were finished. I think I only made about 10 or so. I had so much fun making this quilt.

My True Blue quilt started out as leftovers from her as well.

Several of my UFO projects on my list are from that same blog reader in the same box. These red hourglass blocks are on my UFO list. They are from her. I’m excited to get a chance to dig into these. Soon I hope.

The boxes that blog reader sent were overflowing with great project starts. I just kept most of them and committed them to my own UFO list. I love all things with Civil War fabrics so I kept as many as I could. I can’t thank her enough. I’ve had so much fun over the last 18 months sewing from her castoffs.

I’ll happily take on more projects like this. It’s so fun for me. I don’t care a bit that they are on my UFO list.

A sweet blog reader sent me this…This is the start of Emerald City from Bonnie Hunter. I’ve wanted to make this quilt so when a blog reader sent the start of it, I was thrilled to get it. Thus her UFO became my UFO.

Another blog reader sent this project. This one is slated to go on and be donated as a community quilt. I accepted it with that commitment. I did that before I started working and now it’s hard to find time to sew. I would be willing to part with it if someone would finish it and then send it to Ray for his Veteran’s Day program. Just drop me a note at if you’re interested. Otherwise, I’ll get to it eventually.

All the fabric is there as well as the pattern. Only about 10 or so star blocks are done.

Sometimes I have UFOs because I open my mouth. (and in walks an elephant-HA!!) I have so many Frolic leftovers. Remember Bonnie Hunter did the mystery quilt Frolic several years ago. The instructions had participants cutting out much more than they needed. Blog readers started sending me their leftovers and I accepted them. So far I think I’ve made four quilts from leftovers. I have at least two more quilts here left to make. They need to be designed first!

I have a few UFOs that are truly and honestly my own.

My Tribute to Judie quilt stalled out for three reasons…
1- I knew I was keeping it and it was for me. I prioritize myself last.
2-I started this over 10 years ago. My pieceing skills weren’t up for such small pieces. The stars in this finish at 3″.
3-There are lots of borders in this and it requires lots of decisions. I’m terrible at decisions.

A UFO currently on my list, Hawaiian Sunset, is a similar quilt. Decisions have to be made and construction isn’t easy so I put it off. It’s getting to the top of the MUst finish list though.

This is a more recent start…I’d love to finish this one. A deadline project got in the way and then another and then I forgot about it.

Several quilts were cut out years ago…or fabric was collected years ago.

This is my Sugar Bowl quilt…another Bonnie Hunter quilt. When I was doing in-home childcare, I had to be on the main floor of the house while the kids napped. I had to do something quiet and not wake them. Cutting out quilts was the perfect task. Thus I have this quilt cut out. At one point I have about five cut out. I’ve dwindled that list down.

…and this quilt, Floribunda.

Sometimes I just make bad decisions and need to pass something on…I don’t like this project. I keep thinking I’m going to add some borders and send it to Ray for a Veteran’s quilt. I had something in mind and it didn’t turn out as I envisioned but it’s still an okay project. I just don’t want it anymore and haven’t taken the time to pass it on. It’s a big piece star made from half-square triangles.

This one started because I wanted a leader and ender project. I didn’t have anything so decided to make nine patch blocks with the intention of someday designing a quilt for them. Someday hasn’t come yet.

Leaders and Enders have gotten me into other UFOs. These were pieces Ila sent me. They were already cut into triangles. I sewed the triangles together and pressed them, but alas, that’s as far as I’ve gotten with them…all because I like to have a leader and ender project and because I like to use up fabric that is sent to me when I can. I do have something else brewing with this but need a little time to dig around to get another piece of fabric that might go with it. We’ll see.

A blog reader sent me charm squares. They all coordinate. I thought I’d just make a big charm square quilt as a leader and ender project. It’s sitting by my machine waiting. Another UFO.

I also have a couple of long-term projects. This is Wild and Goosey. It’s paper piecing and a lot of it. It’s not a project I can sit down from start to finish and do. I have to be in the mood to paper piece.

Another long-term project is this English Paper Piecing project. I started this before I was cross-stitching. Now cross-stitching takes up any sitting time I have. I’d love to get back to it but that means giving up cross-stitching. UGH.

So I guess my UFO list boils down to:
1-Completing my kids’ UFOs
2-Completing others UFOs
3-Making Decisions
4-Leaders and Enders
5-Previously cut-out projects from childcare days
6-Being Frugal
7-Not prioritizing my own projects
8-Long term projects
9-The biggest one…TIME!

I am not bothered that I have so many UFOs. I love all but one of the projects I talked about. The others are great! I want to finish them. I love it when people send me projects or project leftovers they have abandoned, especially reproduction fabric projects. I have so much fun with them.

For me the list is just something I keep so I don’t forget about the projects that are waiting on me. I don’t feel burdened by them or ashamed of them. I happily own every single one. Hopefully, over the next six months, I can whittle the list down a little more..or even add to it. I’m game for anything!

19 thoughts on “Ask Jo: My UFOs”

  1. As Paul Harvey used to say on the radio “and that’s the rest of the story “. I used to listen to him on the radio when I had to drive into St Louis and back home from work each day, he was a famous storyteller. He would tell a different story each time. So now we know why you have 18 UFO’s and I think they will turn out gorgeous from our small glimpse of the fabrics.

  2. You are a nice and good mother! Your daughters are so fortunate for that. I don’t have as many UFOs but I have projects that are waiting to become UFOs!! I totally understand why one has to be in the right mood for certain projects. You are a wonder – taking all of the odds and ends of others projects and making something beautiful from them.

    1. At least you have yours organized! I’m afraid to do the same as I’d have too many bins. AND I’ve already sent so much fabric to you, Ray and others.
      Too many UFOs, Sew little time.
      Your dedication and work is beautiful! ❤️

  3. I’m part of a big online quilting group. Many many members admit to over 100 and a handful over 200 UFOs.

    I was thinking 18 is nearly done! I am finishing this year with 11 remaining from prior years and 4 new starts that will not be done. I’ve had a great year though of 45 finishes!

    Cheers to UFOs :-)

  4. I also like found and finished for the challenge the present! Sometimes they have to sit and simmer awhile but haven’t hated one yet.

  5. Jo, you potentially opened a “can of worms” with your list of UFOs. So, when is a “project” considered a UFO??? Is it when you buy the pattern? Or is it when you buy some of the fabric? Or is it when you pull most of the fabric from yor stash? Maybe it is not until you start cutting fabric? Or does it need to have some pieces sewn together? OK, so I am telling on myself. I have them in in all kinds of stages in all kinds of places. I keep telling myself that creative minds are NEVER organized. LOL!!!!

    1. Cynthia from Nebraska

      These are good questions! What do you do, Ray? What do you do, Jo? I consider it a UFO when I’ve started cutting.

  6. A long time ago, a person brought over 200 tops that she found at her aunt’s home. The aunt apparently like to sew but not finish quilts. We looked over the tops and pulled the best for her to keep as memories. She then let us take whatever we wanted. I took about 5 tops which I have not finished since the back was just as interesting with bits of newspaper (some with the date showing). A few others were made with sugar bags, so the printing was interesting to check out. These quilts are more valuable to me as a quilt history than a completed quilt.

    I’ve bought more tops at flea markets that also interesting as history than the quilt.

  7. Name me a quilter who doesn’t have a UFO/WIP or two (or 20). I’m surprised you only have 18! You do suck intricate, time-consuming blocks, I’m amazed at all you get done! I make super simple quilts but yet I’m only slightly behind you in my UFO count, too. But… what is it they say about the journey of a thousand steps…?

  8. 18 is such a small number. Might have that many in my stash that were inherited…they go back 3 generations. I too get stuck on decisions and put things aside. It’s impressive to see how you incorporate blocks in blocks to use up things.

  9. I love the English paperpiecing ufo. Do you know the name of the pattern? I am working on my first English paperpiecing project and finding it hard to find patterns other than grandmother’s garden.

  10. Good GRIEF!! I think it’s wonderful that you would even take it upon yourself to finish what others have started. I used to do block swaps eons ago and would get so aggravated as so many were poorly sewn, seams too large or too small that I would wind up just throwing them in a drawer (and they’re probably still there). I couldn’t do it but you do and they all look so pretty!!

  11. I’m a new quilter and found this so helpful! But I do have 3 questions:
    1. What is Leader and Ender and why is it significant?
    2. American Jane’s Tea Party quilt is one I plan to make for my grandson, but I cannot find the pattern anywhere! Can anyone help me locate an out of print pattern, or help me with what resources to check?
    3. I’ve heard of paper piecing, but don’t know what it is. Can anyone help me understand?
    Thanks so much!

  12. Laurie Lauricella

    I am so happy to see you say that you aren’t burdened or ashamed of your projects! I have others who seem burdened or puzzled by mine! I am the same way, I make and finish many quilts, but the ones I finish are almost always for someone else. I gift a lot of quilts and also donate some. The ones sitting in my closet waiting to be finished are those I have done for myself as either a challenge or because I love the patter/fabric so much. I work full time and cross stitch too but their time will come. I prefer the cross stitch term of WIP to UFO! Enjoy it all Jo!

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