Sorting Through the UFOs

After last week's post, many of you sent in the most amazing, supportive, you're-not-alone emails and comments…thank you. Beyond the compliments (blush), I found much wisdom there in your words, much strength, much companionship as I embark on this new part of my life. Each email, each comment seemed to express something worth pondering about our shared journey as knitters. I found myself wanting to quote first one of you, then another, then another on today's blog…until I realized that I wanted to quote all of you. You are all so inspiring to me.

You are so inspiring, in fact, that I decided to not put things off any longer. This week, I spent some time sorting through my unfinished objects pile, and doing a little reality check on each project.

I discovered that I was really doing a reality check on myself–on my philosophy of knitting, if you will. As I handled each project–some begun recently, one or two begun decades ago (ouch!)–I found that I was asking myself: Why did I want to knit this in the first place? Is it still important to me to finish it? Why? What do I need to change about my knitting habits now to make it possible for me to finish this? If I don't want to finish it–what do I do with it? If it's unfinished, but too pretty or too precious in some way to rip out, can I transform the piece into something I can finish–or even something I want to finish? Do I have the courage to make that first tug on the yarn, to hear those made-long-ago stitches start to come unraveled?

When all was said and done, I had questioned my way through 27 projects in one stage of creation or another…yessiree. 27 projects in my knitting bin. Now, to be fair, 6 of those are only "projects" in my imagination–those 6 are "in the queue," so to speak: planned or dreamed of but not yet started in any way.

So that leaves 21 projects actually started, and thus 21 decisions. Hoo boy.

3 of those 21 are easy decisions: The Star Light, Star Bright Baby Blanket for my niece Delaney, which is two-thirds finished; the black Bolero from Feminine Knits, which I'm determined to complete, and a sock that I use as my car or waiting-in-line knitting. So those 3 projects all are truly "on the needles" and have regular progress being made on them.

That leaves 18 UFO's: Projects I have started, but wich are stalled for some reason; projects that have been sitting neglected for weeks, months or even (gulp) years.

Eighteen unfinished projects…that's a lot of knitting left undone. What ARE these orphans hanging around my knitting closet?

Ten–more than half–of the stalled projects were intended as gifts: a shawl for my mother, a hoodie for my sister, socks for a dear friend, a cabled hat here, a fancy bag there. These projects seem not much different than anything else on my needles, so why do they languish in my knitting closet and the others grow to completion? I take a closer look and realize what these projects share in common: None of them are simple, or easy, or even quick "one skein" stashbusters. Each gift is as unique, as special as the person it is intended for. I've chosen each gift project as though it were the only knitting project in my queue, as though I really could and would devote my entire knitting life to that one special thing, in honor of that one special person's place in my heart.

The reality is, of course, that I can't devote either my heart, or my knitting time, in that way. My knitting projects have to timeshare, since I knit for work as well as for pleasure. But that reality, the reality of my limited time, goes right out the window when I choose to knit a gift for someone…and so my own lack of resources, my own inability to be SuperKnitter, is the source of more than half of the stalled projects.

However, the truth is that not finishing the gifts is equivalent to not giving my loved ones anything at all. So, I reluctantly face reality and consign four of the ten gifts to the frog pond. As for the other six, I'm relocating them to the shelf near my knitting chair, so that I can rotate projects more easily over the course of my week. (I'm also considering making a schedule of sorts, a la the Yarn Harlot and others: Spin on Tuesdays, work on UFOs on Fridays, that sort of thing. We shall see.)

Now, I admit that this is as far as my philosophizing has gotten me, although I did finish going through the rest of the project pile. To date, a total of 7 out of the 18 UFOs have been tossed into the frog pond. The six gifts are now back on active status; that leaves five more UFOs–all goodies for myself: a ridiculously easy, stunningly lovely, but deadly boring shawl; a challenging pair of stranded colorwork mittens, a couple of easy peasy pairs of socks, and a simple-but-fiddly pair of mitts.

Hm. I wonder if I am having trouble justifying time to knit for myself when I can't even finish gifts for those I love?

And so I ponder the lessons my knitting is teaching me–even the knitting I am not doing is a teacher, it seems.

I'm tired. It's time to go curl up with some knitting in front of the TV with my husband…

I wonder which project I'll reach for, and why.

Knit with joy…

– Sandi

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7 thoughts on “Sorting Through the UFOs

  1. Sandy, ATA GIRL, you made progress! It sounds like facing each project turned the UFO’s from a big dark-hole monster into little projects again! And some fresh yarn in the frog pile to inspire another project!
    I had a thought for you to consider, as you mentioned knitting in the car, waiting in line, and by your husband watching TV. Could it be that the atmosphere you work in, influences which projects you gravitate toward and complete? Possibly…getting some knitting pals together for a particular project (like we do in the KAL) will help with environmental inspiration to finish the UFO’s?

  2. Sandi,
    Good for you! What a fabulous job you’ve done renewing your project pile (so to speak). I currently have (gulp) six active works-in-progress and four true UFO’s. I admit to a not-yet-started queue in the double-digits (yikes!). I’m quite certain that if I knitted for work, my project pile would be much like yours. I would simply find myself unable to resist the temptation of so many beautiful possible-projects. As it is, my stash for the not-yet-started queue is threatening to take over the universe.

    Thank you for your comments about the UFO gifts. I find myself making gift project decisions in much the same way – as if I could somehow communicate all the love and affection that I feel for the person in the gift. This will sometimes lead me to choose projects that are impractical given my very limited resource of time. You are right – an unfinished gift remains a gift un-given, and therefore not (at least not-yet) a gift at all.

    You have inspired me, and I know exactly what to do with those UFO’s. They are going to the frog pond, and they are going to be reworked into something I’ll actually finish. This will allow them to cease to be a weight on my mind/heart and allow them to become what they were intended to be – something lovely, useful, comforting – gifts given.


  3. What you said about wanting to put all of your love and creativity into a gift really stuck a chord. But I have discovered one thing..non-knitters are as impressed with a pair of plain mittens in a lovely yarn as they are with an intricately cabled or complicated stranded pair.
    The fact that you took the time to actually make something for a person is special. That helps me when picking those Christmas or birthday projects and actually getting them done!

  4. UFO’s : A topic of intense interest to me as I too have many. From the posts of readers, I take-away that I need to limit the impulse to begin yet another beautiful pattern before I even purchase something new. I like the way you have sorted through and made decisions on your pile. When I see new patterns I immediately think of someone I love whom it would be perfect for. I would love the challenge of working the new and exciting project. So actually, when I start a gift for someone, I do so because I would enjoy making it. I see I need to be realistic about setting a schedule to “finish” at the same time. Thanks for all your sincere thoughts on the topic and life in general.

  5. I’ve found it helpful to simply set myself a certain number of rows to work on each day when I’ve found myself no longer interested in completing a gift. I did it when I was crocheting a blanket for my brother (he was eight and I had promised him) and I did it this year with a knitted wrap for my sister. I haven’t finished the wrap, but I figure at this point it’ll take me only a day or two to finish. Since it’s a Christmas present, I have plenty of time.

  6. Dear Sandi,
    Don’t feel guilty about justifying time to knit for yourself. Often, it’s the journey that leads us to where we are now. I decided to make a cardigan for myself and ended up making a shrug for a friend, and have 2 new projects on the go as well. BUT, best of all, I’ve just discovered the world of knitting and crochet on the internet, and I am enjoying tuition, seeing the beautiful work of others, downloading free patterns and reading lots of valuable info. from other knitters, etc. So grateful to you all. I also love the querky creative things like crocheted food, yarn bombing and installation and performance crochet or knitting.
    Oh, those UFO’s!! Looking for more scraps of coloured yarn, I recently came across a bright pink simple lace-stitch cardigan that I began 20+ years ago. I had all but the band to do and ran out of yarn and couldn’t find a match anywhere. So it was shelved, or should I say boxed, because we have moved house a couple of times at least. I have a hard time throwing things out and good intentions of salvaging or recycling practically anything. It will most likely fit my granddaughter now as she is already into adult clothes and shoes, even though she will be only 13 in less than 4 weeks. I have taught her to knit and although, it’s early days yet, I hope to have her making something else besides a scarf to encourage her to keep going. I saw a lovely easy knit jacket in the August 2009 issue of Let’s Knit which came with a free pair of blue floral knitting needles. It has wonderful new easy designs and many other great ideas. I loved the patterns including the one-skein bag and How to Knit Flowers section. I’ve been collecting bits and pieces to make up a useful toolbox full of notions for her birthday along with a lovely aqua sweater with wide collar and cuffs, knitted in 2 yarns. She picked out one yarn originally and saw a pattern that she liked, but it was of a different gauge to the one recommended. I have been doing swatches mixing different yarns to get as near to the correct gauge as possible. It’s been an interesting journey as I love the colour and textures of fibres. Back to the tool box – I saw some exquisite sewing boxes last year and am kicking myself for not getting one as I’ve not seen anything like them ever since. They were a work of art, not like the usual lined ones available in Spotlight or other craft stores. Anyway, sewing boxes aren’t big enough for long knitting needles and I was in a store and came across a see-through toolbox in the craft section and it was actually labled as a sewing box. Normally it would be just a toolbox for the guys to keep their tools in for on the go projects. Mine is full of crafting tools at present. At least I know where I can find my hot-glue gun, now! My granddaughter might like to decorate her own to make it unique. She can use lots of stick-ons, ribbon, fabric or knit some of those flowers in the Let’s Knit magazine to decorate it. Craft glue, double-sided tape or sticky dots are recommended rather than using a hot-glue gun as it will melt the plastic box. Why not try a cosie to fit? Now, that’s an idea! Think I’ll make one for myself, too!
    Cheers, from South Austrralia!

  7. Your post last week inspired me to frog my first sweater; it is knit but not sewn together and was done when my (ever growing) concept of guage was much weaker. I will use that lovely yarn to knit something else.