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A tear-stained letter poured into Getting Things Sewn headquarters recently:

Dear Miss GTS,

The pace of my househunting has really picked up lately. I’ve been flying to Columbus and back so often, the flight attendants don’t ask me anymore whether I want the peanuts, the pretzels, or the cookies! That’s the good news.

Miss GTS says, “An UnFinished Object doesn’t have to be an UnFun Object!”

The bad news is the time has come to get cracking getting our house ready to sell. You know what that means: weeks of packing, cleaning, painting, and making everything pretty for prospective buyers. It also means not sewing.

You know that jacket I was working on, that I thought I’d finish this weekend? Ha! I’m stuck. I can’t do any more on it till Edith bails me out. Again.

I’m running out of time, Miss GTS. It looks like I’ve got to set this jacket project aside. You may be thinking. “Just go back to it when you’re ready. What’s the problem?”

The problem is when I put this project away it will become a UFO. I hate UFOs! I can feel them silently mocking me for my slowness and inefficiency.

It is so hard to build up the momentum to get my things sewn that when I have to stop, it’s like certain death for my project. And this project has such promise!

Miss GTS, how can I avoid consigning my jacket project to the world’s growing pile of UFOs?


Miserable in Minneapolis

Dear Miserable,

Miss GTS sees three strategies in getting your jacket done:

  • the bribe
  • the threat
  • using an expert

In her experience, despite its popularity, the bribe is the least likely to succeed. She’s read countless times in women’s magazines to reward yourself with chocolate, a manicure, or a bubble bath if you get some loathsome task done. Please. This shows a sad lack of ambition and imagination.

Also, it doesn’t work, at least not for Miss GTS, whose taste in bribes, which she prefers to call incentives, runs more to diamond bracelets. (In fact, after she answers your letter she is rewarding herself with two diamond bracelets.)

The threat is much more effective. Think of something you would want to do even less than tackle your loathsome task. Now, doesn’t the loathsome task look so much better?

If you’re having trouble thinking up something threatening enough, do what Miss GTS does: take three things you dislike and find the overlap.

For example, Miss GTS despises

  • surprises
  • singing telegrams, and
  • clowns

A perfect threat for her would be a surprise singing telegram from a clown.  (In fact, if Miss GTS does not answer your letter by 4:00 today, JoJo the Singing Clown is going to surprise her with a singing telegram sometime in the next week.)

Go ahead, Miserable, try it. Find the overlap of three things you dislike intensely, and threaten yourself with it. See if your productivity doesn’t pick up! Feel free to borrow Miss GTS’s threat to try out– giving her the proper credit and link to her blog, of course.

Now, the last and most effective strategy is using an expert. The trick is finding that special person who has exactly the knowledge you need to help you get your project done.

In Miss GTS’s experience, finding a husband is usually easier than finding the right expert.

However, Miserable, you’re in luck. Because in this case, the expert is–you. You, even more than your sewing teacher, are an expert in this project.

The jacket: Vogue 4036, from 1959.

The jacket: Vogue 4036, from 1959.

You know

  • what you’ve done so far
  • what’s left to do
  • what you feel competent doing, like the bound buttonholes and the pocket
  • what you feel uncertain doing, like checking the sleeve fit and ease  in that muslin one more time, or drafting the lining

Have your questions for Edith’s visit, and make sure you understand all her answers. Take notes in  OneNote and use the OneNote recording feature, too.

After Edith leaves, you’re going to sit down and write your future self–the one who will be finishing this jacket in your new sewing space–a letter.

The letter will tell your future self how to finish this UFO. Think of this UFO as a kit that will become a smart little jacket from a 1959 Vogue pattern. This will be the best kit you’ve ever received, let alone completed.

Read the pattern sheet. As you review each part of the construction and write that part of the letter to yourself, put the pattern pieces, fabric, thread, and other supplies into a box, ready to be unpacked and assembled like a piece of Ikea furniture. (Only better–because your instructions will be better.)

And while you’re at it, list those books, magazine articles, and notes that are going to help you through the buttonhole, lining, and other stages.

When you finish the letter, sign it, “Your friend.”  Put it on top of the supplies in the box. Close the box.

Now go pack, clean and paint. Sell the house, move out, move into your new house, and set up your new sewing space.

Open up your kit for the jacket, and follow the instructions your friend–your earlier self–wrote to you. And if you never open that box, the kit will be ready for someone else to take up and complete.

But Miss GTS is betting that making your UFO into a kit is going to help you finish this project. Besides, don’t you want to see that jacket you’ve been dreaming about?


Miss GTS

p.s. By the way, Miss GTS has given JoJo the Singing Clown your address. Just in case.