WIP versus UFO? {Discussion}

I’m really interested in getting your input today on how you differentiate between a Work in Progress (WIP) and Unfinished Object (UFO). I’ll share my thoughts here in the post, and let me know how you view the difference in the comments. These community discussions usually create really rich and interesting comments, so be sure to take the time to leave your thoughts and read the comments of others, too!

January, February, and March Blocks

January, February, and March Blocks

When I think of a Work in Progress, this is what I think of:

  • A project that is already started.
    • If fabric is pulled, but no cutting has started, it hasn’t really started, so it’s not on my mental Work in Progress list.
  • A project that I have worked on in the past year.
    • The Old School Block of the Month is a great example of that for me this year. I am making one block a month, so it’s an active WIP.

When I think of an Unfinished Object, this is what I think of:

  • A project that I have started but not worked on in the past year.
    • My definition of “year” is a bit loose: it could be calendar year or 12 months. To be fair, I don’t tend to work on multiple projects at once, so having UFOs is a lot less common for me personally, so I’m a LOT more fuzzy on this definition.


Which brings me to the heart of my question: how do you classify very specific projects that you know you won’t be working on frequently? The mini quilt pictured above is a mini quilt that I pieced years and years ago, and I’ve been adding hand embroidery / hand quilting detail to it, but only when I travel. It’s my go-to project for when I know I’ll be on an airplane. And, honestly, it’s been a while since I’ve worked on it. I guess by my own loose definition above, it’s an Unfinished Object. But mentally, it still just feels like a WIP.

Does the mental classification of WIP versus UFO matter to you? How do you differentiate between the two? And do you think my long term handwork project a WIP or UFO?

17 thoughts on “WIP versus UFO? {Discussion}

  1. Chris says:

    Yvonne, I agree with your definition of a WIP, as long as one is working on a project, even if there’s a lot of time in between parts, the creator intends on finishing.

    I think a UFO is a project that one is extremely unhappy with (for a multitude of reasons) or lost interest in, and is reconsidering whether to finish or give it away, or possible even just throw away.

    BTW: I love seeing all your quilts, your creative eye is marvelous.

  2. Pam Losely says:

    WIP to me is anything that is active. Whether it’s a current project a QAL or like your travel project something you work on intermittently. I have a EPP Project that’s my travel WIP.
    A UFO to me is something that you have started and most likely you lost interest in and won’t get finished.
    They usually get cut up and used for something else.
    Interesting question!

  3. Annabelle says:

    To me, UFO is a completed quilt top that needs to be quilted and bound. WIP is a quilt top still being worked on, in the process of being pieced, appliquéd, or embroidered.

  4. I would consider your travel mini a WIP because you still have an active interest in working on and finishing the quilt. I have several WIPs going at once (too many, but I’m working on that), so I don’t work on each one on a regular basis. A UFO for me is a quilt top that is fully constructed but has not been quilted. It now becomes an object because it is waiting to be quilted, or finished. Fun question for discussion! (And is that your current living space? I love that wall color!)

  5. Lea says:

    Hi Yvonne, this is an interesting topic. I think of a WIP as a quilt I’m working on and have set aside. It’s a quilt that I like very much.
    Whenever I work on a quilt there comes a time where the quilt starts to look ugly. Or I’m making a lot of silly mistakes. Or simple things become difficult that aren’t really difficult. For this reason I always have three quilts in progress (except these days I’m not quilting unfortunately). When this happens I set the “offending” quilt aside and move to the next one. I’ll work on that one till it’s finished, or until it starts looking ugly, etc. Then I’ll move to the third one and so on. Rotating between three quilts works for me. When one of the three is finished I’ll start a new one. Whenever I move to the next quilt it’s like starting a new project.

    When it comes to UFO’s I think of them as quilts that are languishing because I just don’t like them anymore. Because working on a quilt is something that I enjoy doing if it is going against my grain I’ll give it away. I’ve given UFO’s to other quilters and quilting guilds. There really haven’t been that many of them and it has been a very long time since this has happened. But I won’t hesitate to stop working on a quilt that I’m no longer happy working on.

  6. Liz Wilson says:

    Very interesting! It’s an emotional decision for me that’s based on intention. It breaks my heart to classify something as UFO, because that’s admitting to myself that I’ll probably never finish it. As for the WIP, I always say one day, some day, when I have more time or motivation, I will finish it. I think a fair few of my knitting WIPs are actually UFOs, but I can’t bring myself to tell them so!

  7. I agree with your definition. For me, it is all about emotion. A WIP is something I’m still involved in, even if it is just sitting waiting for me. My mind is processing it, even if my hands are elsewhere. It will eventually be completed, as originally envisioned. A UFO has fallen off of my list, and is no longer engaging. It may be finished as originally planned, or be turned into something else – it’s future is uncertain.

  8. Cathy H says:

    For me a WIP is a project that has not made it to top status. A UFO is one that has made it to top status but is not yet sandwiched or quilted.

  9. Mrs. Plum says:

    For me, a UFO is a project I’ve set aside, usually because I’m stuck/didn’t have concentrated time to devote to it/the design wasn’t working/other priorities interfered. For the most part, I finish my UFO’s. A WIP is something I’m actively working on. In my world, the same project can flow from being a WIP to a UFO and back again before it is finished. Sometimes, a project in the UFO category becomes a much better finished quilt than it would have if I had finished it immediately. My skills/design esthetic/stash needed to improve before I could move on with the project. It’s interesting to read other people’s thoughts on this topic.


    Hmmm, this discussion is really interesting. I have a lot of UFOs and they didn’t necessarily make it to the “top” status. Some happened because I was working and I took too many classes and moved on to something else before finishing the last one (and many previous ones). Some I’ve encountered problems that at the time seem overwhelming and I need to think about them. I might finish them but the odds are just not good. Our guild has had UFO signups where we can pick up to three UFOs to finish in about 9 months. We have a show and tell and there are drawings for prizes. I’ve participated in those and finished some really old quilts. Most of those I gave away. WIPs are those monthly sew alongs and I do have a number of those going. Most, I get to the top stage at the very least. Then I have to decide if I will quilt them or they will go to a quilter. I may have WIPs that are ongoing for several years. The satisfaction when they are completed is huge. Your quilt that you take on plane trips would be a WIP in my book. Thank you for the discussion.

  11. EllenB says:

    I agree with your discussion of WIPs/UFOs. My UFOs are tops waiting to be quilted, or those sample blocks I made to try out a pattern and know I won’t make more. They may eventually end up as a sampler quilt. WIPS are the projects waiting, with fabric and pattern, to be completed and are the ones I’m most interested in finishing. Your little quilt would be a WIP since you have all the materials and it is intended to be a longer term project. Interesting subject!

  12. Suzanne says:

    My goodness! Everyone has their own spin on this and it’s quite fascinating. They are just as diverse as we are and the quilts we make. I doubt any quilt that someone puts away for a while is truly ugly. I know I’ve put one away at times simply because I’ve become a tad bored with it. Anyway, all this got me thinking; I never really considered the two expressions to be much different. But now that I put some of my few remaining useful brain cells to work, I realize my opinion is quite literal. To me, a Work In Progress is exactly that. Whether in process of being pieced, sandwiched, under the needle for FMQ or binding, it’s a WIP. If it’s sitting off to the side waiting, or put away, or simply started and stopped for lack of interest or dislike, it’s a UFO. So much for my two cents.

  13. WIPs for me are what I am working on, and have plans for a finish in the near future. They are on an active list – maybe not this month but an active list. A project that travels does fall into that category.

    UFOs can be any stage but I have started working on it (more than just collecting the fabric) and have put it aside due to lack of interest or complications with it. Some level of obligation to finish or guilt about not finishing it surrounds this group.

    PROs are my term for projects I have collected a few things but not started. They don’t guilt me as they are not and have not been activated – worked on other than in a creative thought.

  14. Jann Lawson says:

    WIP, UFO – doesn’t matter what I call them. I like knowing that I have one or two, at least, projects to put my action to cutting, piecing, binding. Some have certain deadlines to be met so they’ll get attention more often. But I just ENJOY what I work on!!

  15. Elaine Walker says:

    For me a WIP is a current project that I may work on intermittently along with other projects. I usually have several at one time. A UFO is a project I’ve started and then put away for any of several reasons. Sometimes I’m not crazy about it, maybe something is wrong with it,etc. A UFO is one that has been placed in a bin on a shelf and not been worked on for a while. Most of mine do eventually get finished. Some I love and some not so much and they get donated.

  16. Great discussion question, Yvonne! I think of WIPs as the things I’m actively working on, even if there are (always) a few and I might go a while between sessions with any particular project. UFOs are the ones that have been set aside in favour of something else, so a hand stitching project that has been supplanted by a different hand stitching project, so the first one is not really active anymore.

  17. Michelle Eaton says:

    I will say that a WIP is anything on top of my pile or table that I am currently working on.UFOs can’t be seen from day to day- they are stashed away or buried under other projects. I have come to realize that this is not a bad thing, as there is usually a reason for why this happens. Something is going wrong with the design, technical difficulties that I don’t know how to handle, boredom in the middle of long repetitive steps etc. They need time to marinate, and when I pull them out again in months or years, progress will happen. Unlikely many quilters, I consider a fully pieced quilt top finished, complete. Sandwiching and quilting it is a whole other project. Like the difference between baking a loaf of bread and then making a delicious sandwich- two separate activities:).

I really appreciate the time and thought you take to comment, and I look forward to conversing with you. :)