What does UFO mean in Quilting?

UFOs may not always be the mysterious and enigmatic unidentified flying objects soaring through the sky, because in quilting UFO stands for unfinished objects. These unfinished quilting projects, also known as “unfinished objects,” can be a source of frustration and disappointment if they're not completed, and may even end up getting “trashed” just like an actual UFO. But with the right attitude and a little bit of determination, these UFOs can be transformed into stunning works of art that will be treasured for years to come.

It is important to understand that, especially for beginner quilters that UFOs are common in quilting and other crafts, and it's an important aspect of the process. it allows quilters to learn, grow, and improve their skills over time, to focus on what's important, and able to enjoy the process and create something beautiful and unique.

In this article, I will discuss what is does UFO mean in quilting, the reasons for UFOs, and what you can do with the UFO quilts even if you are not interested you can make use of them. In addition, I will also share my strategies for how I tackle my UFOs. So, without further ado, let's get started.

What does UFO mean in Quilting?

In quilting, a UFO is an unfinished quilting project that a quilter has started, but for some reason or another, has not been completed. This can happen for a variety of reasons, such as lack of time, difficulty with a particular aspect of the project, or simply losing interest in the project.

Quilters often accumulate several UFOs and will set them aside for a period of time, with the intention of returning to them at some point in the future. Some quilters will even have a designated space for their UFOs, and will refer to them as their “UFO pile.” I also have a separate space for them to store them.

While having a UFO can be frustrating for a quilter, it's also not uncommon and it's natural, with the pressure of life, work, or other projects all of us may lose interest or motivation to finish a quilt project that we started with a lot of enthusiasm.

In addition, quilters also refer to these projects as UFOs because it is a way to keep track of what needs to be done and what steps are remaining, which helps them to prioritize their time and focus on finishing the project. Many quilters have come up with different ways to manage their UFOs, like setting a deadline to finish, breaking down the project into smaller tasks, or giving it to a friend to finish.

Please keep in mind, that a UFO doesn't have to be viewed as a negative thing; it can be seen as an opportunity to learn and grow as a quilter. For example, if a quilter gets stuck on a particular technique or aspect of a project, they can take a break and come back to it later with fresh eyes, or they can seek out help and advice from more experienced quilters to overcome the issue.

Reasons for UFO Quilts

There are many reasons why a quilt project may become a UFO (unfinished object). Some of the most common reasons include:

Lack of Time

One of the most common reasons for UFOs is that quilters simply run out of time to finish a project. The quilters may have a lot of other responsibilities, such as work, family, or other hobbies, that take priority over quilting.

Difficulty Level

Some quilters may start a project that is too difficult for their skill level, and become discouraged when they encounter problems or mistakes. In such cases, quilters may set the project aside until they feel more confident in their abilities.

Loss of Interest

Sometimes you simply lose interest in a project for various reasons like getting into another quilting project, not finding the spark you did while starting it, or getting too bogged down by other things in life.

Difficulty in Finding The Perfect Fabric

Sometimes quilters may have trouble finding the perfect fabric for their project, and as a result, they may set the project aside until they are able to find the right fabric.

Health or Personal Issues

Quilting is a hobby that requires a lot of patients and demands time and consistency. In some cases, the quilter may experience personal or health issues that make it difficult to continue working on a project with the same enthusiasm.

Unforeseen Complications

In some scenarios, the quilters may run into unexpected complications while working on a project, such as running out of thread or breaking a sewing machine needle, which can cause them to set the project aside temporarily.


Sometimes quilters may start a project that is too ambitious, requiring too much time and too many resources that they don't have, so it becomes impossible to finish it.

In short, the reasons for UFOs are often personal and can be different for each quilter, but the most common reasons are mentioned. However, with a bit of motivation and proper planning, it is possible for quilters to overcome these challenges and finish their UFOs.

What To Do With A UFO Quilt?

If you have acquired a UFO (unfinished quilt project), there are several things you can do with it:

Complete It

One of the most obvious things to do with a UFO is to finish it. This can be a great opportunity to use your quilting skills and creativity to bring the project to completion.

Use It As A Learning Tool

If you are a beginner quilter, using a UFO can be a great way to learn new techniques and skills. For example, you could use the UFO as a way to practice piecing, quilting, or binding.

Adapt It To Suit Your Needs

You may not be fond of the original design of the UFO, but you can always change it to something that you love, by adding, removing, or rearranging the blocks, fabrics, or colors.

Use It For Charity

If you don't want to finish the UFO, you could always donate it to a local charity, such as a women's shelter or children's hospital. Many organizations are always in need of handmade quilts, and a UFO can be a great way to give back to the community.

Sell It

You can also sell the UFO on online marketplaces, quilt shops, or other quilters. Some quilters may be looking for a project to work on, and a UFO can be a great opportunity for them.

Give It As A Gift

If you have finished the UFO, it can be a great and personal gift for someone special, that is interested in quilting or like the idea and want to finish it.

Strategies I have Used to Complete My UFO Quilts

UFOs can be a bit of a challenge to work with, but with the right strategies, you can make them easier to complete. Here are a few strategies that I use:

Set A Deadline

One of the best ways to conquer your UFOs is to set a deadline for yourself. Pick a date in the near future and commit to having that UFO finished by that date. This will give you a sense of urgency and help motivate you to work on it.

Break It Down Into Manageable Tasks

Another strategy is to break your UFO down into smaller, manageable tasks. For example, if you're working on a quilt top, you could break it down into tasks such as piecing the blocks, assembling the rows, and attaching the border. By breaking it down into smaller tasks, you'll be able to make progress more quickly and feel more accomplished as you finish each step.

Work On It Regularly

Regularly working on your UFO is also a good way to conquer it. Try setting aside a specific time each week or each day to work on your UFO. This will help you make steady progress and keep the project in your mind.

Get A Partner Or A Group

You can join a quilt group or find a quilting partner to help you conquer your UFOs. The partner or the group can offer you support and encouragement, and you can also share tips and techniques with each other.

Assess The Projects

Before starting on a UFO, take a good look at the project and assess whether or not it is something you truly want to finish. If it’s something you don’t feel passionate about anymore, it's better to let it go and find a new project that better aligns with your current interests.

Set A Realistic Goal

It is most important to set a realistic goal for yourself, for example, if you have a lot of UFOs and you want to finish them all in a short period, it may not be possible, instead of feeling overwhelmed, consider setting a goal of finishing one or two UFOs in a month and slowly working your way through the pile.

Where Can I Sell UFO Quilts?

There are a few places where you can sell UFOs (unfinished quilt projects) for purchase:

Online Marketplaces

You can sell them on online marketplaces such as Etsy and eBay where you can put a wide variety of quilting-related items for sale, including UFOs. These marketplaces allow quilters to sell their unfinished projects to other quilters who are looking for a project to work on.

Quilt Retreats Or Classes

Some quilt retreats or classes offer sessions that specifically focus on working on UFOs, and quilters can bring their UFOs to work on during the retreat or class. You can sell or exchange the UFOs in these classes. In addition, these classes may help you to finish your UFOs.

Quilt Shops

Not all but some quilt shops may sell a selection of UFOs on behalf of individuals or buy from individuals to sell as their own. This is done as a way to offer them a project for customers who are looking for a new quilting challenge. Also, these quilt shops might be a good option for selling UFOs who no longer have time to finish, or passed away.

Quilting Communities or Groups 

Some quilting groups or communities like Quilt UFO Challenge Group may organize “UFO Challenges” where members are encouraged to finish their UFOs within a certain period of time. Members can also sell, buy or trade UFOs within the group.

Please keep in mind that UFOs are usually not complete, meaning they might be missing some fabrics or instructions so you might need to figure out some parts on your own.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What does UFO stand for in quilting?

UFO stands for “unfinished object.” It refers to a quilt project that a quilter has started but has not yet finished. It is a quilting term that refers to a quilt project that a quilter has started, but for some reason has not yet been completed. This can be for a variety of reasons such as lack of time, lack of inspiration, or difficulty with a particular aspect of the project.

Why are UFOs frustrating for quilters?

UFOs can be frustrating for quilters because they may have invested a significant amount of time and effort into the project, and it can feel like a waste to let it sit unfinished. UFOs can also take up valuable space in a quilter's work area, making it difficult to work on other projects.

What are some common reasons for UFOs?

Some common reasons for UFOs include lack of time, difficulty level, loss of interest, difficulty finding the perfect fabric, health or personal issues, unforeseen complications, and over-ambitious projects.

Where can I Sell UFOs for money?

You can sell UFOs for money on online marketplaces like Etsy or eBay, in quilt shops, or through quilting groups or communities. They also can be sold at second-hand stores, yard sales, or thrift shops.

What can I do with a UFO?

You can finish it, use it as a learning tool, adapt it to suit your needs, donate it to charity, sell it, or give it as a gift.

How can quilting groups help with UFOs?

Quilting groups can help by organizing UFO challenges, sharing knowledge and experience, offering workshops and classes, scheduling regular Show and Tell, buying and trading UFOs, and providing a supportive community.

Can UFOs ever be completed?

Yes, absolutely, as long as you are willing to put in the time, effort, and dedication you can finish any UFO, with some planning and motivation you can bring any UFO to completion, it can be a great opportunity to use your quilting skills and creativity to create something beautiful and unique.

How can I get motivated to work on my UFOs?

One way to get motivated to work on your UFOs is to set a goal for yourself, such as completing one UFO per month. Another way is to set a deadline for yourself, such as completing a UFO by a certain date. You can also try breaking the project down into smaller, more manageable tasks, and tackle one task at a time.

How can I organize my UFOs?

One way to organize your UFOs is to keep them in a designated area, such as a quilting room or closet so that they are all in one place and easy to find. Another way is to keep a list or spreadsheet of all your UFOs, including the materials needed and a description of the project.

What should I do with UFOs that I no longer want to work on?

If you have a UFO that you no longer want to work on, there are a few things you can do. One option is to donate the UFO to a quilting group or charity. Another option is to sell the UFO or use it as a trade with other quilters. You could also simply let it go and consider it a learning experience and move on to another project.

Wrap Up

In short, UFOs are quite common in not only quilting but also in other crafts like sewing, etc. Many quilters have a collection of UFOs in their quilting rooms, and they may work on them periodically or set them aside for a while before returning to them. 

No matter what is the reason, please keep in mind that quilting is a process you should enjoy. It's perfectly fine to set a project aside if it's not bringing you joy and come back to it later when you're feeling more motivated.

If you like the article, do share and if you still have questions do comment I will be very happy to hear from you.


Teresa Moreno

Teresa is a mom of two and has been a quilter for the last 12 years. She spends her free time reading about quilting to learn new techniques and information. And, she loves to share his quilting knowledge with other fellow quilters.

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