Monday Musings: UFO Sightings, Part 1--Just What Is a UFO?

So it would seem that some of you appreciated the 5 Ss posts that I've done the last few weeks--maybe some of us are feeling the pinch of being a little less organized than we'd like. So I'm thinking I'd like to keep with that theme for a bit, but explore different facets of it. As usual, stuff I talk about on my podcast and blog are things I'm addressing (or feeling the need to address, anyway) in my own life, so I'm talking to myself as much as to anyone else.  

I've mentioned that I had a sudden alien invasion in my sewing room. What to my wondering eyes did appear but something like 17 UFOs. Really? When did that happen? Leave fabric alone for long enough and it gets up to shenanigans, apparently. 

So, based on that, and on comments some of you have made when I've been talking about my UFOs, I'm going to do a few posts on what I've learned about addressing those alien invasions in your own life. 

Week 1: Define for yourself, "UFO" 

We all know what a UFO is, right? "Unfinished Object," or so they say. But what, exactly, is an unfinished object? Turns out there's as many definitions for what warrants the definition "unfinished" as there are quilters not finishing things. I once read an article or a blog awhile back--don't remember specifics anymore--written by someone who defined her UFOs to include quilts she'd even just  thought about doing. In other words, she may not have even bought fabric or designed it on EQ or sketched it in a notebook, but it was in her head as a quilt, therefore the fact she hadn't made it yet rendered that quilt as unfinished.

Technically, I suppose that would be true. But if I were to be held accountable for every quilty thought that passed through my mind, well...I'd just throw in the towel and call it a day right now.  

Some people include PIGS (or Projects in Grocery Sacks, an acronym which really geolocates it's users to those who live in parts of the country who call grocery bags "grocery sacks," as here in Western NY it would be PIGBs, which is virtually unpronounceable); these projects are those for which you have a pattern or design and you've collected all the fabrics for it--it's all sitting neatly in a bag or a bin awaiting your attention. And waiting. And waiting.

A very old photo of my storage for UFOs. I'm pleased to report all of these UFOs did get completed. They're now replaced with a new stack...

A very old photo of my storage for UFOs. I'm pleased to report all of these UFOs did get completed. They're now replaced with a new stack...

Some quilters include WIPS (or Works in Progress); these are projects you're currently working on. They've not yet started collecting dust on the shelf, but are still at least more or less in current rotation. 

For me, I made some judgment calls a few years back and came up with this working definition for myself: A UFO is any project in which I've already made the first cut, and which has dropped off my mental radar for any number of reasons.

In other words, I don't choose to count PIGS.  My rationale for that is that I can always repurpose the fabric if I lose interest, so just because I've thought about doing a particular design and put together a particular collection of fabric for it, doesn't make it a UFO. I haven't actually cut into that fabric yet, so I've never officially "worked on" the project to make it now be something I haven't worked on in awhile.

I also don't count WIPs because, by definition, those are still "in progress." It has to have been languishing on my shelf for some period of time.

I've never strictly defined how long a period of time it needs to have been out of rotation; it generally has more to do with whether it's fallen off my mental radar or not. If I look at something and think, "Oh, yeah, I really need to finish that," it means it's dropped off my radar, even if it was only waiting for me for about three weeks. That makes it a UFO. 

I don't count quilts I've dreamed up. That's just crazy talk. 

So this week, if you want to play along, work on your personal definition of what you actually, personally, consider a UFO, if you haven't already done it at some point in your quilting career. Don't just take someone else's definition for it--use a definition that works for you. You might even want to write it down, maybe hang it over your cutting table or something, live with it for a bit. Does it feel right to you? When you're ready, share your definition here!