Start the New Year by Freeing Yourself of UFO Guilt

by Colette Herrin

A conversation with my friend Jane about why we were stuck in neutral when it came to our creative process made us realize that we both had incredible guilt about the UFOs in our studios.  Both of us experienced a heavy feeling whenever we walked into our studios.  It was a feeling of things being just barely under control.  I had the feeling that any minute my studio might explode and I would be found days later in the middle of it all.  We knew we had to unload this burden in order to become productive again.

First step: We had to find out what we were dealing with.  Jane cleaned out her studio and found over 100 UFOs; I counted 72 in my studio! No wonder we felt stuck.  Jane went to work and devised this wonderful system.

The system uses two sets of numbers to evaluate each project. Adding the 2 numbers together will provide the final number. It works like this:

The first set of numbers represents the amount of time a project will take to finish.

1 = <2 hrs (less than 2 hrs)
2 = ½ day
3 = 1 day
4 = <week (less than a week)
5 = week or more

The second set of numbers represents the level of need or importance you place on the project:

10 = need immediately
20 = need soon
30 = need sometime
40 = want to do it
50 = can let go of this, but not right now

One of my projects is a green silk purse. I estimate that it will take me two hours to finish this purse and I really need it now.  So the final number assigned to this UFO is 12:  2 for time it will take to finish + 10 for the level of need.

NOTE:  If there is no date-sensitive need (birthday or other special occasion), then the project is a 40 or a 50.

Now to get organized. Place each UFO in a clear bag that has a tag or label inside (I use 3” sticky notes).  I number each project by the year — 1401, 1402, 1403, etc  — and the final number from the above-explained system.  This number is circled. As the bags are sealed closed, the project is added to a master list. I have this list on a clipboard in my studio so I can easily access it. My list of projects looks like this:

Project # Description Time to Complete Level of Need Final tag number Date Completed
1401 Green Silk Purse 2 10 12
1402 Angel Placemats 3 50 53

Store projects by Level of Need Number.  I have plastic boxes marked “10 Projects”, “20 Projects”, and so on.

Now you are ready to put the system to work.  When you have some time before an appointment for instance, look through your list and find a project by number that will fit the time frame you happen to have available.  Let’s say I have 3.5 hours in the morning before I have to be somewhere.  I can do project #1401 – Green Silk Purse because I rated it as taking me 2-3 hours to finish.  The fact that I need it immediately also comes into play.  I can start this project and not worry about being able to stop in time to leave for my appointment.  I just set the timer and get to work.

When I am finished with a project I line through it on my list and write the date I completed it.  Once you finish your first project under this system  –  OH THE JOY!!!  You get excited and set goals for the week for how many projects you will complete.  I have been doing this since March of 2005 and have completed over 300 projects.  Everything from sewing on a button to making a quilt count.   Things like cleaning the refrigerator have been known to show up on my list also.

Note: As you are going through your UFOs and discover a project that you doubt you will ever finish disassemble the package, put the fabric in your stash and file instructions or patterns. Put a line through the project on the master list and “LET GO” in the date completed column. Just for fun, put a tick mark at the top of the list to indicate those projects that you let go of.  You will find that this system helps keep down the clutter in your studio, gives you a real sense of control and incredible satisfaction.

That’s the system! You can work with it easily at this point or you can take the system one step further. Here’s what I do:

Each project has its own index card.  At the top of the card in the left hand corner is the number of the project.  In the right hand corner at the top are the three numbers assigned during the “grading process” followed by the title of the project.  My index card would look like this:

#1401                                                                  2         10        12
                               Green Silk Purse

I can fan through my cards very quickly and find all of the “2s” for instance and work on them during my three-hour mornings.  Or I can fan through and look for “10s” so I can get the most urgent projects completed first.

After a project is completed, I update the master list then I record the completion date on the index card.  The index card goes into my file box behind the tab labeled “DONE”.  It is very encouraging to watch that “DONE” portion of the file grow as time goes by.

I take a picture of each completed project and file it electronically in “Things I Have Made”. This is an easy way to document all my projects and another source of satisfaction.

The burden is lifted, my spirit feels free and I am at peace to sit and sew with a real sense of excitement and expectation of good things to come. You can achieve this sense of well-being too. It really works. So, get busy and free yourself of UFO GUILT!

Special thanks to Jane Koura for her great idea and for sharing it with me.

First Friday Studio Tour – Laurie Dhandapani

This month we are visiting with Laurie Dhandapani in Vernon, Connecticut.

Do you call it a studio or sewing room? To yourself, to friends and family? Why do you think this is so? Difference in starting point between quilting and art? Thinking of this as a business rather than a hobby?

I play in many different mediums, so I consider myself a mixed media artist: but I am also a professional quilter and teacher. Since sewing is only a part of what I do, I refer to my work areas as a studio. I also think it makes me take my art more seriously.

What do you have in the room? machines, supplies, fabrics, paints, etc. Anything that might surprise the rest of us?

I have all the ‘usual’ quilting supplies, rulers, cutting implements, fabric and a sewing machine; but because I like to paint (both on fabric and other surfaces) I have a wide assortment of paints, dyes, inks, markers and pens. I also like to do surface design, so I also have some odd things on the shelf like, rice cereal and boxed mashed potatoes (These make great resists on fabric.)Laurie Dhandapani studio 4

I have a good assortment of stamps and stencils. I have a lightbox, stencil cutter and a heat tool for distressing/distorting things. The best thing I did was put up a 6 foot by 8 foot design wall. Not only can I put things up as I work, but I often hang a project that is ‘stuck’ and after looking at it for a while, the solution comes to me.Laurie Dhandapani studio 3

I love to draw and journal, so I also have lots of paper. I have a longarm machine as well, both for myself and customer quilts.

How is your “stuff” organized? How do you organize your fabric? By color? Amount? Any separate categories (batiks, hand dyes)? How do you organize your thread (color, weight)?

I try to organize my supplies by medium. One closet holds paints/ dyes and another closet for batting.

Laurie Dhandapani studio 1

Thread is organized by type- the frequent flyers are on a stand and the others are kept in plastic boxes. Generally the things I use frequently are on open shelves or on a pegboard so I can readily get to them.Laurie Dhandapani studio 5

And then there is the fabric. I am a self- proclaimed “collector” of fabric! I gravitate toward batiks and ethnic fabrics, but also have some silk and velvet. I have acquired lots of fabric and know that it will eventually find a way into something I am making. I also collect ribbons, lace, buttons and ephemera, for embellishing.

Do you have anything, supplies, more machines, etc. tucked away in any other rooms of the house. How many other rooms? (My husband likes to talk about that one.) Has a family member or significant other ever accused you of “taking over” the entire house? If you have a separate building, we want lots of pictures.

I manage to contain my ‘stuff’ to two bedrooms…although I did need to convince a couple of kids to move out! One room houses the longarm machine, the equipment pegboard and most of my fabric and the other room is really my working studio.Laurie Dhandapani studio 2

How much horizontal surface do you have, and is it ever enough? Do you have to move piles of stuff to cut anything bigger than a fat quarter?
Do you straighten/organize as you go, putting each fabric away as you cut, or do you clean up after a project? How many projects do you work on at a time and how do you keep them organized?

My working table is a six foot banquet table on supports to raise it up, so I can stand to work. I do all of my cutting and non-sewing work on this table. My sewing machine is in its own table. In a pinch I work on the ironing board. I try to keep the cutting table cleared off as much as possible. I tend to work on several projects at a time. I keep each one in a basket or bag so I can easily pick up and begin work.

Anything more you want to add about your studio, organization, working methods, etc., please do.

Making art is personally fulfilling. As a teacher I am thrilled when a student ‘gets it’ and I enjoy quilting for someone to complete their vision. I love what I do!

Thank you, Laurie, for letting us tour your studio.

Next Month:  Colette Herrin

Happy New Year

Beginning in 2011 and culminating in 2013, we took up the challenge of using the alphabet — plus the Question Mark and Ampersand — as inspiration for creating fabric postcards. We had so many members interested in this challenge that we had several groups of traders creating simultaneously. Here is what one group created. Click on an image for a closer view.

May the future bring you more creativity that you hoped for! Happy New Year!