Lisa’s List: The 11 Steps of Breaking up With a Project

Have you ever experienced a UFO? I’m not talking about alien spaceships—I’m talking about the forgotten knitting or crochet project that we call an Unfinished Object.

In yarnie speak, a UFO.

You start a project with all the excitement in the world. A new pattern, a new yarn, a new dream of a thing you can wear and use or give away. So why do some projects falter, get put aside, languish in a project bag, get forgotten?

Today we will boldly go where no yarnie has gone before. We are going to look into our project bags, our hearts, and into the universe of our UFO’s. Let’s talk about why we break up with our projects.

unfinished object

“I want to live,” says the unfinished sweater in the back of your closet. | Photo Credit: Getty Images


1. You’ve happily worked a gauge swatch and cast on for the project. You make some progress.

2. And then one of 6 things happens:

  • You have trouble following the pattern and get frustrated
  • Your yarn and the pattern aren’t working well together and you fall out of love with the whole thing
  • You realize you made a mistake 5” back and you feel heartsick at the prospect of ripping it out
  • You get distracted by life, by another project you were working on, or circumstances separate you from your knitting
  • Or maybe you did NOT work a gauge swatch, and you realize that your 42” sweater is measuring more like 55” and your soul solidifies into an angry, resentful little ball and all you can do is sigh and throw the project down and walk away
  • The yarn you convinced yourself you liked when you found it on sale at the shop is showing its true colors now—it’s splitty, the color is not quite right, fluff flies off of it and clings to everything, it pools in odd ways that remind you of meatloaf or that frazzled screen when the TV goes out
  • The knitting just isn’t FUN. You lose interest

3. And so a period of “denial” begins. You ignore the project. You don’t work on it. You try not to think about it. Somewhere inside, you have every intention of going back to it, fixing it, finishing it, but you just need some space right now.

Sometimes multiple seasons can pass while a UFO lingers. | Getty Images

4. This period drags on longer than you realize.

5. And then, fireworks. You discover a new project and a new yarn you want to work on. You move on.

6. The UFO, formerly a WIP, enters a state of stasis. Like in the movie Alien. It lives at the bottom of your workbasket, covered by other skeins and projects. You notice it occasionally, but it’s like there’s a force field around it—you will never disturb it. It is permanently sleeping.

7. A day comes and you graze the UFO’s surface accidentally. “Hmm,” you murmur, slowly pulling it out, into the light. “Oh, yeah. This thing.” You cock your head and think about what might have been.

8. For a moment, you think about working on it again. But instead, you decide you really need that circular needle, and pull the needle out. And put the UFO back.

9. Now the stitches are all loose. The project is left in limbo—will it unravel? Will it hold its loops, hopefully waiting for another row, another day? Something in you shrugs. You don’t care. You have broken the final string of hope.

Throwing it in the corner won’t help. | Getty Images

10. The time comes for a whole-house cleaning, and you attack the stash and the workbasket. You wind up old balls and bag them for donation. You organize your needles and hooks. You gaze at the UFO, rumpled and loose and sad. And you think about what else you could do with that yarn.

11. The final step: You set up the ball winder. You find the tail of yarn attached to the loose UFO; you wind it through the piggy tail of the winder, and with a grim but rather gleeful sigh, you start winding. And the whole UFO unravels in less than 3 minutes into one giant cake of yarn. A little kinky in the strand, but otherwise pristine. Ready for a new dream. You put it in a large plastic tub with other cakes, close the lid, and put it on the shelf.

There comes a time, for some UFO yarns, that you break up with the yarn, too. But that’s for another day ☺

If you have a tub of yarn waiting for the perfect pattern, you can try matching the gauge and yardage to projects on Ravelry. Or you can design your own project, based on the yarn! Check out the Handy Guide series of books for help; they’ll show you how to take any gauge and any type of project and fill in the numbers for a basic pattern you can follow. Add stitch patterns and other details as you like! These books will help you figure it all out. Check them out below!

We’ve all been there. Just remember, your knitting doesn’t have feelings.




One Comment

  1. Christine F at 11:57 pm June 14, 2017

    Other reason to abandon knitting project(s): one puts on weight and the size of the “thing” planned won’t fit unless many many pounds are lost, or even worse more yarn is bought… It’s a sad sad story. It’s also hard to unravel something that represents so much work. Another compelling tale. Great article.

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