Unfinished Objects (UFO’s) are very prevalent among the needlework community. In fact, I would say that it is extremely rare to find someone who doesn’t have at least a few. And yet I can remember past days where I worked on one project until completion before beginning another. In those days my eyes were much younger, and I could see well enough to work on my current project wherever I found myself 

And then I started setting aside the current project to work on a gift that had a deadline. It was always so hard to get back to the old, unfinished project, as there were increasingly more projects that beckoned. As my eyes aged, it became necessary to have different projects to work in different light settings and the UFO’s began to pile up. Or should I say Works In Progress, as most of them do see 

Once I joined EAC and my local guild, I was exposed to many forms of embroidery beyond the cross stitch, hardanger and specialty stitches that I enjoyed so much. So much to learn, so little time!  Here I thought I would be able to slowly progress in my learning of new techniques and improve my skills.

But wait! What’s this thing called Seminar? I was rather dismayed when a friend stated that she did not necessarily finish her Seminar projects, but took the classes for the techniques she could learn, regardless if the finished project appealed to her. And so, once she had learned what she could from that class, whether or not she finished the piece was immaterial. That was a very foreign concept to me.  

As EAC’s Membership Director, I have the privilege of welcoming many new members to EAC.  Recently, I sent out a “Welcome” email to a new member living near the upcoming Seminar location and expected she would be registering for seminar, as seminar regularly generates new members who want to learn and expand their horizons. This new member responded that none of the classes still available appealed to her. I shared my friend’s viewpoint with her and may have convinced her to try seminar after all.  

In my first Seminar I took a canvaswork class and a goldwork class.  I was a newbie to both techniques, but being a “counted” person, I finished the canvaswork piece in a timely fashion.  While this technique may not be one that I will do much of, the piece was lovely, so much more so in reality than in pictures. And that is another thing that is sometimes off-putting. How many times do you see a pattern and the picture does not appeal to you? Photos so very often do not do justice to the piece. So perhaps you need to give something a chance, and you may be surprised, as I was, that you really like the finished 

I had had a very brief introduction to the basics of goldwork at our guild meetings thanks to Anne and Sandra. Although my goldwork piece was categorized “for all skill levels,” it was a VERY STEEP learning curve for me. And I was determined to finish the piece. How I struggled!  After a month-long struggle, I finally contacted the teacher and found out that in the course of having many different “threads” out during class, several of these threads had ended up in the wrong packaging. Thus I was trying to make the threads perform in a manner they were not intended to. I finally got on the right course and although many stitches were redone several times, I was happy with my final results. As far as learning the technique without finishing the project goes, I would have to say that my learning would have fallen far short if I had not completed the project. And it surprised and encouraged me to have some of my fellow guild members request my help to finish their goldwork piece.  Me!  

My advice would be to persevere, and do the stitch over until you are happy with it. I’ve heard the excuse that “Oh no, I’m not going to work on that project until I am better at that technique.” How do you get better at a technique unless you work at it? And remember that your guild is a collection of people with a wealth of needlework knowledge, just ready to be tapped into. Which of us is not happy to share our passion for embroidery with someone else?  

In asking for help, you will not only broaden your knowledge, but encourage them as well. That is a win, win situation!

Submitted by Helen Bartel


  1. Wonderful post :) I've only started taking classes in the past few years. I usually pick them by technique and if I already know the technique I'll take the class because I like the design. But I always try to make an effort to finish class projects. I feel guilty if I have too many WIPs running around :P

  2. What a great post, Helen! Thanks for sharing your perspective and your experiences. It's inspiring! - Kathryn Drummond

  3. Wonderful post Helen! I really enjoyed reading about your outlook on UFOs and WIPs!


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The Embroiderers' Association of Canada (EAC) is a national non-profit educational organization whose purpose is to have a fellowship of persons who enjoy needlework and wish to learn and share their knowledge; and thereby to work towards maintaining higher standards of design, colour and workmanship.

Our aim is to preserve traditional techniques and promote new challenges in the Art of Embroidery through education and networking.

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