Five Reasons Projects Become UFOs

I'm starting to wonder about myself. I have started three projects overall for this here little blog, and none of them are done yet.

What. Is. My. Problem?

Let's recap, shall we? (Yes, we shall.) First, there was the Bolero, from Feminine Knits. (The first blog post about it is here.) That one came sooooo close to being done: I had knit all the pieces, and blocked them…only to discover that I had knit two left sleeves. That's where things came to a screeching halt. The pieces are sitting in a sad little stack on my worktable in the studio. (The pieces are the black pile in the photo. Poor things.)

Second, there was the darling Star Light, Star Bright baby blanket. (First post is here.) I have finished the main section, with only the border to go. I actually started the border…and stopped after working only a few repeats. The whole thing was stuffed into a plastic bin on a shelf in my TV room until I pulled it out for the photo (white blob at left).

Third, there is your friend and mine, the Farmer's Market Cardigan. (First post is here.) I swear I have been knitting on this thing steadily the past month, wanting to have it done by this weekend. (It's the reddish whatsit under the tree, all folded up pretty-like.) All I have left to do is knit the left pocket edging/collar, hem one sleeve, and sew things up. Big whoop, right? So why isn't it done yet? What's up?

I sat down this morning with all three projects spread out on a table, hoping to break this streak of personal UFO sightings. If I can figure out why I stopped working on each project, maybe I can save these projects (and perhaps a few more?) from the UFO pile. Here's what I came up with:

In my experience, a UFO becomes a UFO usually due to one of five things: boredom, difficulty, time, yarn, or gauge/fit.

1.  Bored, much? I can honestly say no, I'm not bored with any of these 3 projects. I think the designs are beautiful, and I still love how each one is going so far. I think the finished objects will rock…if I can Just. Get. Them. DONE.

2.  Gauge/fit: The blanket is spot-on with gauge, and fit isn't an issue, so that one's OK. The bolero's gauge is also accurate, and the pieces have been measured and blocked carefully to my own measurements. I've now tried on the cardigan, and it's smashing. So this isn't the problem for any of the three.

3.  Yarn: I'm very careful with yarn selection, especially for big projects like these. I know I'm going to be knitting with the yarn over many hours, so I want to make sure I absolutely love it. The baby blanket is Dale Baby Ull, a washable and soft yarn that is perfect for the drape and feel I want in a baby item. The bolero is Elsebeth Lavold's Hempathy, a wonderful blend of hemp, cotton, and modal that couldn't be more beautiful for this cute little sweater. And Dream in Color Smooshy, the yarn I'm using for the cardigan, is one of my new favourites. So: Not the yarn.

4.  Time: Wellllll…I've certainly had time to work on other projects. In the same time period, I've finished two shawls, a pair of socks, several skeins of handspun yarn, and a couple of small weaving projects. (A girl's got to keep her hands busy, after all.)

That leaves us with…

5.  Difficulty. This category can cover a lot of ground: Either the stitch is frustrating, or the written pattern is hard to understand, or the knitting requires a lot of concentration…Oh, wait. That's it. That's IT. In each case, the place where I got stuck requires time spent in focused concentration in order to rescue it from UFO Land:

– In the bolero, I managed to cleverly knit two left sleeves…so clearly I misread the pattern somehow. (Ya think?) The fix? I need to sit down and carefully compare my row-by-row notes with the book to see where I went wrong.

– In the blanket, I stopped after a few repeats of the border. The border is only nineteen stitches–one repeat–wide. That's not much. However, it means that every nineteen stitches, there's a new pattern repeat to work. Everyone's brain is different; mine prefers stitch patterns that repeat a few times across a row so I can memorize each repeat and get into a rhythm. The fix? I could find a border worked in rounds, rather than one worked in a narrow strip.  This means I have to hunt down a suitable lace border pattern somewhere and adapt it for the blanket.

– As for the cardigan, I am stuck at the collar, which uses ribbing, cables, short-rows, and increases. I have finished the edging and collar for the right side; but the left side, which is a mirror image, is making me crazy. I've knit it three times and had to rip it back each time. The fix? I need to sit down and write out the row-by-row instructions instead of trying to keep track of all the complicated shapings in my head.

Time and energy to focus and concentrate. I can't be the only one who lacks these two essential ingredients for successful knitting. What do you do when your knitting needs the best of you, and the rest of life has gotten there first? Comments, anyone? And are there other reasons an object ends up in your UFO pile?

I found a quote that I think I might have to paint on my studio wall: To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong. (Joseph Chilton Pearce) After all: The new border pattern I choose for the blanket might look stupid. I might end up with a bolero with three left sleeves. The finished collar edging on the cardigan might look wonky rather than polished. But isn't the point to get past the fear of all those things and just keep going? To live the creative life, to find an even deeper joy in my craft, I must learn to never give up; to never stop trying to do better, to work past mistakes, to listen to my inner self and find a way through.

So I'm not going to let these projects stay UFOs. I'll somehow find the guts and the focus to finish these three things: a darling baby blanket, a cute bolero, and a stylish cardigan. Wish me luck!

May you find the courage to live the creative life. (At least for ten minutes or so. I know. It's a tall order.)

– Sandi


Sandi Wiseheart is the founding editor of Knitting Daily. You can find her blogging here on Knitting Daily every Thursday. Want more? Visit Sandi's personal blog, wiseheart knits. Or, if you're on Twitter, follow her tweets: alpacasandi.



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