Studio Life: Why I Can’t Just Finish All Those UFOs

I’ve been slow getting back into a sewing routine. Our summer was busy, and once it ended there was a lot to catch up on in the house and garden. I participated in two back-to-back craft shows (which are always a lot of work), and between my kids’ two schools, there was only one (!!) full week of school so far… And yet, I did manage to get back into my sewing room. I even started flexing my sewing muscles, by once more, tackling those never-ending piles of unfinished projects (also known as UFOs).

A few days ago a friend asked me why I can’t just finish one thing before moving on to the next. It is, after all, the logical thing to do. It would certainly clear a lot of studio space (as in remove the many piles from the chairs/bed/carpet), giving me more room to breath and move. Not to mention clearing the accumulating guilt…

Logic aside, however, I find that for me, following that advice is utterly impossible. I’ve been thinking about why that is, and–despite my wish to blame it all on sorcery–came to the conclusion that many different factors contribute to the accumulation of those UFO piles:

Distractions

This is probably the main reason, and it comes in many different forms. There are small distractions, like dinner burning on the stove. Or kids barging into my sewing room when I’m in the middle of sewing, wanting something. I usually stop whatever I’m doing, and when I get back to it, hours, days or weeks later, I sometimes move on to something else.

Every now and then I also need to sew things for family members. When school started, for example, my daughter got a new school laptop, and asked me to make a sleeve to keep it in. I gave this a priority, and ended up spending more time on it than I expected (as it took three different tries to get the laptop to fit through the zippered top).

There are also big distractions, like illnesses, trips, or summer vacations. These force me to stop whatever I’m working on for long periods of time. When I get back, I often find it hard to go back to the projects I was in the middle of.

And then there are huge distractions, like hosting house guests. Since I sew in our guest room, hosting means moving all of my sewing materials away. It takes me up to two weeks to move everything out, another week or so to move things back in, and then months to figure out what pile is which and where everything is (I’m still looking for items I can’t find after hosting family this summer…). Forget about finishing projects if you can’t even find them…

Design Concerns

Often, I find gorgeous pieces of textiles that I am really passionate about. Sometimes I’m not sure what to make them into. At other times I don’t have the exact fabrics I need to match them with. These go into separate piles. They wait patiently for weeks or even months, until I find all the other ingredients I need to make them into something spectacular.

I found this unusual piece, for example, over a year ago:

It took me many months to find just the right fabrics to go with it, ones that matched not only in color but also in texture. I completed this tote last week:

Yep, one less pile! (but there are already new ones in its stead…).

New Ideas

The biggest pile of unfinished projects is in my head. I constantly have ideas for new things to make, new quilts to sew, new bags to design and so on. Every now and then I just HAVE to try something completely different. It keeps me challenged and excited about my work.

I find inspiration everywhere, but especially on trips. There is something intense about going somewhere else, being exposed to new environments and new cultures, seeing lots of new things. After traveling I am especially eager to make new things. Like when I returned from Peru and made a troll.

Then there is a constant danger in sorting my fabrics, too. I really didn’t mean to start anything new before I finished those UFOs, but as I was putting things away I came across this amazing tapestry in my stack (so guess what?!):

And there are the scraps. My work results in many, colorful scraps of different sizes and textures, that happen to accumulate in my sewing room before I get to put them away. Often, seeing those scraps together gives me new ideas. Thus, even if I try to finish one thing, I can’t help but start another… Only yesterday I began working on this mini messenger bag, for example:

Seeing the leftover strip alongside other pieces made me think of a new artsy sling (I’ll get to it soon, I promise!):

Even putting those scraps away can be problematic. So far I sorted them into different boxes by approximate size. But a few weeks ago, when one scrap box started overflowing, I spilled them all out, and had the idea to sort them by color:

Which lead to some scrap playing:

Which ended up in this “Fall” mini quilt, that I love dearly:

Procrastination

Finally, there are the less-pleasant tasks. I’m sure you have those in your work, too. Every line of work has undertakings that are fun to do and activities that are … less so. Me, I love designing. Thinking of new items, matching fabrics, experimenting with colors and textures–these are the things that get me all excited. Ironing and sewing zipper pockets … not so much. And so, when I design Renaissance Totes for example, I really enjoy making the outer layer. Sewing the lining, however, with its zipper and many pockets, is a chore. And so there is currently a pile of outer layers of Renaissance Totes waiting for their linings. They’ve been waiting for a while. I’m ashamed to say how long. I will eventually force myself to finish them, but not this week…

When I shared my UFO predicament in a Facebook group I’m in, many creative members seemed to understand. One person quoted a known saying, about how, when you finish all your projects, it’s the end. I guess this, alone, is a great reason to keep going 🙂

 

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