Tuesday, 30 December 2014

The Coat for Winter 2012 - A UFO triumph.

It was Douglas Adams who once said 'I like deadlines. I like the whooshing sound as they go by.'


This is my coat, which I am making for the Winter of 2012. I have finished it just in time for New Years 2015. It has become a running joke.

It was a bit of a UFO record holder. For the uninitiated, A UFO, in the sewing / crafting world stands for an Un Finished Object.

Tempted as I am to talk about the coat (Simplicity 2311 if you're interested), I'm going to veer off on a tangent and talk about UFOs instead. It's fittingly 'New Year's Resolution-y'.

Why do we burden ourselves with UFOs? 

I think some of the causes are a bit 'general procrastination' stuff, and others are creative specific. Here are my top reasons for so many of the O's being all UF'ed.

1. Getting Bored With The Project
Sometimes a project takes so long, I just get sick of looking at the fabric. It seemed perfect in the shop, but now I'm over it. Or I have made so many drafts (toiles/muslins) I feel like I should be finished by now. Hurry up and be finished, stupid thing! Both problems applied to this coat.

2. Finding Fault With The Project
The creative process is one of constant evaluation. Which is a good thing, because it enables improvement. However, sometimes those faults become apparent a bit early in the piece (as in, before the daft thing is finished) and those faults turn to disillusionment. Maybe I stuffed up somewhere, and now I am cross about it. Experiments don't quite work, little tweaks would have made it much better.

Sometimes I just have to put a project in the naughty corner for a while, so I can get past the frustration. And then I can pull it out and say, ok, it's not as bad as I remember... and carry on.

3. The Flow is Broken
On occasion I get into an amazing state of flow. I'm powering along like a machine, and I am going to get this project finished by noon tomorrow because it's all going so smoothly. Everything is breezing along....

And then I run out of thread. Since that requires going to the shop, and it's now 6:00pm, I have to put it down. Picking it up becomes a struggle. I've found something else to do and the magic of the moment has passed...

4. Something Else Takes My Fancy
I don't want to admit to having the attention span of a goldfish, but -  Ohh look - shiny things!

The imagining (and I daresay shopping) stage of making stuff is a heck of a lot of fun, and a lot more failsafe than the end bit where you're finishing it up neatly (and impatiently). Plus whilst plugging through a project, more ideas happen. And I want to start all of them *right now*. It's easy to get sidelined and have too many things on the go. Particularly hazardous is when I decide to 'store' a project in a bag somewhere and then lose track of it completely.

5. I Miss A Deadline.
I'm making a coat and suddenly Spring has arrived. Or I was making this for Christmas but missed that boat and bought a gift instead. So it gets put on a backburner. The project is now filled with guilt. Bonus points if other people know you're making it, and rib you about it (Hot tip - don't tell people what you are making - wait and show them what you have made).

6. I Don't Really Want to Do It
Hello minor repairs and alterations for friends and family! Some stuff sits there for ever because frankly it isn't that interesting. Not that I don't want to do a friend a favour, but when I'm looking at those trousers waiting to be taken up, I suddenly remember to check my email. This also applies to repairing my own stuff. Because making a whole new dress is way more fun than fixing one.

So What Do We Do About It?

I'm not going to pretend I have solved this problem completely. I have defeated this UFO, but have no less than 4 other UFO's lurking in my shelves being all dusty and judgemental. Still, I like to think I have picked up a few strategies for taking those suckers on. 

1. Forgive yourself. < Big One.
Whether it's for not quite nailing the collar or not getting it done on time, let it go. Take a deep breath, pick it up and look at it from a fresh perspective.

2. Pick one UFO to tackle, and put it somewhere convenient.
If you have one project out on your table where you can see it, and everything is to hand (threads and notions etc) it will be much easier to pick it up and work on it. If you are hand sewing or knitting, put it in a basket next to the sofa for TV time. I was amazed how quickly I got the lining of my coat stitched when I hung it over the back of a chair in the living room. Work those lazy habits!

3. Just get a bit done today.
If it's been sitting there for 3 months, it's ok to just do 15 minutes and then stop. If you make a deal with yourself to try and get 15 minutes done 3 times a week, you might just get back into it.

4. Tidy up when you finish something - as in, that day.
Because nothing takes the fun out like having to tidy up after something you did a week ago, before you kick off on today's task. 

5. Find a manageable balance for the number of projects you have at any one time.
Some awesomely organised people can do one thing at a time and finish it before they start the next. I'm not a one project kind of person at all. Because I get bored easily, and because there are usually some things in the naughty corner at any given time, it helps to have different things to rotate between - at least something for hand-sewing and something for machine sewing. The key is to keep going back to them!

6. Keep a notice board of things that you are currently doing.
I have developed a wall with my current projects on it. Sometimes I just have a single post-it note with a swatch and a word to remind me what I am already doing - so I don't lose it in the pile. I try to consult the board whenever I have time to sew, and before I cut stuff out for the next project. Or shop for it! You would not believe how satisfying it is to take the post it notes down when something makes it to the finish line.

7. It's ok not to hoard something strictly for the original purpose you had in mind.
If you've seen a nice piece of fabric, and thought 'that would make a nice skirt' it can sometimes block you from permitting yourself to use it for a bag instead. This can mean buying more stuff and getting even more overwhelmed. Did you have the perfect ribbon to finish something, but you were saving it for something else so nothing got finished? If you release the original stashed stuff, it stops being a (sort of) UFO, and you can run with the new inspiration instead. Phew!

8. Keep a notebook of things you want to make. 
Do the fun designing / imagining part in a notebook. Make notes, sketch or collect images, but try to stop short of purchasing fabric (or failing that, don't cut the fabric) until you have finished something else you already have on the go. Forgetting about something you've planned out in a notebook is much less frustrating than forgetting about stuff you have cut out and only just started. It also saves money.

9. It's OK to let some things go.
Some screw ups are beyond repair. Sometimes tastes change between start and finish. While it's not advisable to give up on everything, occasionally it's helpful to throw the fail out and forget about it.

So that's my thoughts on taking on UFO's. What about you, lovely readers? What trips you up, and how do you get past it?  And if you are a super organised one-project at a timer, tell me your secrets...

1 comment:

  1. I'm able to do one project at a time and rarely have an UFO - (check me out eh!) But I do suffer from too much going on in my mind and settling on what to do next. I do keep a little note of what I would like to make and if I already have any fabric that can be used. One trick for 2015 is to take a cutting of each fabric from the pile and staple it in a note book with the yardage etc so I can see what I have. I was going to do it for 2014 and bought the note book but never started....
    My one UFO is the blooming Sewaholic Renfrew Trench coat. I've got over the guilt and I just don't like it anymore. I'm not going to finish but I have fabric and pieces that could be used for something else. By the time I bought the pattern and fabric and buttons etc it wasn't cheap but I'm not going to punish myself anymore!
    Making a shirt earlier this year I nearly gave up but I took a few evenings away from it and broke it down into steps and took each one slowly and got there in the end.
    Love your coat.