Identifying Your UFOs (or PIGS)

UFOs also known as PIGs on Lori Baker's design wall

I’ve got flying pigs on my mind. July 2 is World UFO Day, presumably a day for earthlings to scan the heavens for alien visitors. But we quilters know that UFOs really live quietly in closets and sewing rooms around the country.

Most quilters may call unfinished projects UFOs, but I call them PIGS. The very name is amusing: PIGS = Projects In Grocery Sacks.

Yes, it’s a funny name but much of the time, for me anyway, that’s where the “funny” stops. I have WAY too many PIGS. I know there are at least two boxes lurking at home in my sewing studio. There are so many that I once made a spreadsheet to keep track of them. I didn’t date the spreadsheet but I started with 37 PIGS on the list and now I’m down to 25. In the meantime, I’ve taken home more color options and unfinished pieces and parts that aren’t on the list so I know if I updated it, there would be more than 25 projects.

For quite a while, I blogged regularly about finishing PIGS. Unfortunately, when I stopped blogging about them, I stopped working on them so diligently. In other words, I’m bogged down.

Projects in grocery sacks


For example, here’s a blog post I wrote about a planned quilt made of a whole bunch of orphan blocks. It’s over a year old and that PIG is still not done. I was thinking about it earlier this week. Does that count?

There’s a video I did a few years ago in which I talked to Mary Kate Karr-Petras about how I approach my PIGS when they get out of hand. My main point was that it’s okay to donate, give away or take apart projects that you’ll never finish.

I just re-watched the whole episode and was reminded of a few things that will help me to get moving again. The funny part is that I’m getting inspiration from the me of five years ago. Here are some of my own tips I need to remember and put into action:

  • Part of the problem in getting moving again on old projects is coming up with the time. Having rules for myself helps, such as when I used to set aside 6:30–7:00 a.m. each morning to sew, or more recently sewing for at least an hour each night starting no later than 8:30. Being consistent helps.
  • When I evaluate my PIGS, I try to figure out why they went into the closet in the first place and remind myself that they don’t need to stay in the closet just because I put them there. There are those I know I’m never going to finish, such as any bags I marked “partial kit” or a kit I’ve already “robbed” pieces from. Things like that just need to get sorted back into my stash and I need to stop worrying about finishing those projects anymore.
  • As for the PIGS that remain, I need to consider 1) how much time I have and 2) how much room a PIG is taking up. Small PIGS that might only take me an hour to a half-day to finish go into a box of easy projects; I have a high probability of finishing them when I can find them quickly and easily. Likewise, if an unfinished project is large and taking up a lot of space, and if I know I want to finish it, I’ll make it more of a priority just to free up physical space.

I thought maybe if I looked back at some of my PIGS finishes and what motivated me to finish them, it would give me some encouragement (and hopefully you as well if you have too many PIGS or UFOs).


Elizabeth’s Quilt by Lori Baker

Elizabeth’s Quilt

For instance, here’s a PIG I’m particularly proud of, Elizabeth’s Quilt. I repaired an old quilt that my friend Elizabeth’s grandmother made for her. It took me quite a while to gather up the courage to start but once I realized that it was not doing Elizabeth any good hiding in my closet, I started the repairs.

Atlanta, based on the Changing Lanes pattern

Atlanta, based on the Changing Lanes pattern

All this talk about pigs makes me remember the days when I lived on a hog farm—oh yes, it’s true. I did. There were big PIGS like this one based on the Changing Lanes pattern that became a quick-and-easy queen-size quilt.

Hot Pad by Lori Baker

Hot Pad

And there are the little PIGS. Hot pads are an easy finish for pieced orphan blocks and a fun thing to give as small gifts. Here’s a blog post where I talked in depth about organizing and sorting PIGS and finishing a little hot pad.

More Hot Pads by Lori Baker

More Hot Pads

And here are more hot pads I made from the PIGS assortment.

It was fun for me to see some of my PIGS in the video that was taped in 2013. Many of those PIGS are finished and long gone. One that I talked about is a pink basket quilt that was pieced (poorly) by someone else in colors that were not appealing to me and that I’d quilted when I was just learning free-motion quilting. I called it “barely adequate” but went on to say I could donate it; someone might use it. “I don’t have to keep my PIGS, I can give it away!”

Tashi’s Quilt by Lori Baker

Tashi’s Quilt

I did finish that PIG and it went under the Christmas tree in our annual Pile of Quilts. My granddaughter snagged it. She didn’t even hesitate. Her mind was made up long before it was her turn to choose. She told me she loved it and she’d always hoped that somehow, someday she’d wind up with that quilt.

It was the perfect illustration of what I stressed in the video when I said, “I’m not making something to try to win a grand prize at a quilt show; I’m just trying to get something useful for somebody. Because I’m a perfectionist I have a tendency to think that everything has to be perfect, and it doesn’t. For a lot of people, even our family, if we make something and the corners don’t match, they don’t care because we made it and it’s special for them.”

I’m hoping that I can go home tonight and see those things in my studio with fresh eyes. And do some sewing!

Until next time, happy quilting,

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