Blog,  Sewing Tips

Pantone and the UFOs*

Haha sounds like the name of a music group….

(*Un-Finished Objects: sewing projects set aside and hanging over your head whispering “Finish me!”)

The Pantone color-forecasting service Spring 2017 color chart has been out for a month, have you seen it?  I was too busy finishing Halloween costumes to even take a peek.  Truth is, as much as I’d love to “Think Spring!”,  I have customer orders due by Thanksgiving (next week?!) and then Christmas is another busy sewing season for online orders.


Christmas is in 5 weeks?  As 2016 comes to an end, once again my sewing pile of UFOs is taunting me..the seasons seem to speed by so fast that projects don’t get finished in time to wear them.  Does anybody else have this problem?  Why can’t I keep up?  I can think of a two reasons:

  1. Hofstadter’s Law (My hands are jealous of my brain”): it takes a second to come up with a great idea, but far longer to put it into reality. Projects always takes longer than you expect, and it’s almost impossible to accurately predetermine how much time is involved (is this why we buy more fabric than we have time to use?)
  2. Murphy’s Law (“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong”): your sewing is going along fine and then suddenly:
  • You run out of fabric, thread, interfacing, etc
  • Your sewing machine/serger/iron refuses to cooperate (I am convinced that tools KNOW when you are under pressure, and they are trying to tell you to calm down and do something else for awhile….or maybe they just want to show who’s in charge and remind us to give them respect)
  • A silly stitching error requires un-picking (ugh, total time-waster)
  • And the everyday interruptions: the kids need homework help,  dinner needs cooking, the phone won’t stop ringing

What about the scheduling problem of balancing your “Need to Sew” projects with your “Want to Sew” ones.  That could mean dealing with family needs (repairs, alterations, costume-for-the-school-play) before getting a chance for sew for yourself (ie: “selfish sewing”).  In an ideal world, we could keep up with our “need to” sewing, and then use free time for more creative sewing.  In reality, the creative projects often get put aside ….and become UFO’s.

My own  “want to sews” involve testing new patterns, adding fresh styles to my Etsy shop.  But what happens is that I get new projects halfway done, and then  a bunch of customer orders come in, which of course take priority. This September I had the cutest new Dorothy (Wizard of Oz) costume cut out for my Etsy shop. Days went by with more urgent sewing until I realized it was too late to list the costume for Halloween. During October I was busy sewing costumes when I realized that the 2 new Thanksgiving styles I had pattern-tested and cut out were getting too late to list. Now it’s mid-November and I just saw a television advertisement for a major retailer, already marking down Christmas outfits! So now I have these 2016 UFOs for what…next year? Will I still be excited about them in 2017?

(And what if you are sewing for your kids?  They surely won’t be the same size next year!)

I should be able to keep up with the seasons of the fashion calendar, I’ve done that in the apparel industry for literally decades. Right now the industry is working 3 seasons simultaneously: Winter 2017 product development, Autumn 2017 apparel sampling/approval, and Summer 2017 garment production (Spring 2017 has already shipped from factories to retail warehouses). But the timing is less structured and disciplined when you sew for yourself, or for  customers: you can wait until the item is needed.  And just as any school-teacher can tell you that the kids who are most often tardy are those who live right next-door to the school. Procrastination is human.

So, back to the new Spring 2017 Pantone colors. The majority of my sewing is in white, but I do love color! I should be excited by looking at the fresh palette and yet I’m also anxious. Why? Instead of seeing what’s new,  I see what’s no longer in vogue. The color shifts each year are subtle yet important. Compare Spring 2016 (left) to Spring 2017 (right):


The popular aqua-and-peach combo is over.  Aqua “Limpet Shell” has morphed to Sky Blue  “Island Paradise”…. “Peach Echo” is gone. Is it time to dump any leftover peach fabric?   Lime Green “Green Flash” has been replaced by Moss Green “Greenery”.  Uh-oh.

You’ve heard the phrase “like it’s going out of style“?  (“The kids are eating Halloween candy like it’s going out of style“)  That saying originated in the fashion industry.  Back in the day before color forecasting and trend services, when a color or fabric seemed to be on the way “out of style”, manufacturers would rush to cut it up and sell it before it was too late. There’s sometimes a hope that an out-going color will “come back into style some day”…but the shade is always slightly different next time around.  The color forecasting companies keep us on our toes this way.  New colors = new reasons to shop.

So I worry: Do I have any UFO’s in a color that’s on the way out?  Should I hurry up and finish them, or is it too late? It’s sort of like leftovers in the refrigerator that nobody eats, but nobody throws away either.  Just thinking about this creates negative energy that is so draining!

I remember my mom teaching me that not every sewing project will be a success. Even when buying ready-to-wear, where you can try it on beforehand, not every purchase turns out to be a winner. She taught me that’s it’s okay to toss a sewing project: sometimes the learning experience is enough to justify the expense put into it, and sometimes finishing a project is just “throwing good money after bad”…in this case throwing the value of your time into a project simply because you’ve invested in the materials. Kind of like this Aubrey DeGrey meme:



Maybe it’s best to think like Marie Kondo, best-selling author of “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up”: hold the item in question, thank it for its usefulness, and say goodbye.  Do you have a UFO that’s sapping your enthusiasm? Let it go. Fabric in a color that’s no longer fresh? Donate it to a thrift shop: it could be perfect for a school theater group in need of costumes.  On-wards to 2017 and a new year of sewing adventures!


  • Shelley

    I honestly don’t worry too much about what’s in vogue color-wise as much as what looks good on me. This is one of the major reasons I sew, along with having fit issues.
    Most of time a sewing bust comes at muslin stage. Said feature should work in theory, but in real life the ‘tummy hiding’ ruching, or draping accentuates the problem area.
    My one big UFO for the year is done is a fabric that sews beautifully, but has one color in it’s print that I can’t stand. It costs a bit so maybe if I just keep it away from my face as a skirt it still has a chance.

  • [email protected]

    Prints are so tricky. I remember in merchandising class being taught that you only use one print in a collection, and be careful because it has to be the right colors AND scale AND motifs…..any one of those can be rejected by the customer. But yes sometimes what doesn’t work next to your face can be charming as a skirt!

  • JustGail

    My problem is more of USOs (Un-started Objects). So many patterns, so much fabric, too much #$% jeans mending, deciding what new project to do next is sometimes mentally draining. Yes, Hofstadter’s Law is in full force in my sewing room. Thanks for the proper name, I think I’ll still refer to myself as the Empress of Grand Plans & Good Intentions though. And Mr Murphy visits quite often as well.

    Prints – so often I find I like the design, but not the colors (1 “wrong” color I could handle if not the main one), or I like all the colors, but not the design. So when I find one I like design, color and fabric, I buy. But that’s lead to my biggest problem with fabrics, whether in or out of style – too many purchases that don’t really go with much else in the stash or current wardrobe.

  • Mina

    Like Shelley, I don’t pay much attention to what colours are ‘in’ because I just sew for myself and not commercially, but I have always wondered… who decides what’s ‘in’? Like you said, the industry works a year ahead. So somehow, somewhere, there is a group of people deciding what we will all be wearing 12-18 months from now. It seems so strange to me. How come fashion manufacturers can just… tell us what to wear, I guess? But I grew up wearing handmade clothes and I don’t like shopping, so maybe I’m just horribly out of touch with reality.

  • [email protected]

    Who decides? Fashion forecasting companies ( They hire teams of researchers who travel the globe and look for colors (and fabrics, and textures, and silhouettes) that seem to be fresh, “new”, and gaining in popularity. They take thousands of photos, bring them back to headquarters, create display boards, analyze the visual data. and then make seasonal pronouncements of their predictions for future trends. Manufacturing and retailing businesses purchase memberships to forecasting services, which can be as simple as an annual booklet, or as detailed as monthly reports, videos, swatch books, etc. Forecasting services are the reason that this holiday season is all about red and black (seriously…check out the greeting cards, wrapping paper, gift catalogs….all red and black) instead of green and red (traditional), or blue and silver (so last year).

  • [email protected]

    Oh I have that problem as well…fabrics that are lovely on their own, but have no home in my closet….so they don’t get made into anything. Last week I read a story about a service where a fashion coordinator analyzes your closet, helping you create outfits from pieces that you never considered together. I wonder if one could take that a step further and have somebody analyze your fabric?? I would consider paying for that…..

  • SilverMom

    So happy to have discovered your blog. I just finished reading all of your posts (yes, back to #1!), and have learned so much. I’m now a subscriber!

    Re: Pantone color, and “fashion” in general – gave up paying much attention years ago. I think it is wonderful that these days, even with youth, pretty much anything goes. Grunge, formal, long skirts, short skirts, tight pants, loose pants…I see it out and about every day. Some (much?) of it may not be to my taste, but that’s OK, too.

    Thanks for the time and effort you take to pass along the your extensive knowledge.

  • [email protected]

    Oh wow, you’ve made my day!! Totally agree, for myself, I’m not much concerned with fashion trends….maybe I was over-saturated while I worked in the industry, or maybe it’s just that after kids your priorities change so much. I’m more aware of colors and trends when I sell to others. Thanks so much for reading!!

  • Abbey

    Hi, i love your blog and your style. I’ve learned so much studying your posts…and a good sense of humour too. Thank you so very much! …and a happy new year 🙂

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