Why Does A UFO Become A UFO?

Second Sock Syndrome at work

Nicholas, A.K.A. The Husband, is three-quarters of the way through knitting me a pair of cabled socks. He's done the first sock, and is partway through the second. One weekend, I caught him looking through my knitting books…and he confessed: "I don't understand it. I'm not done with your socks, and really, no matter what I do, I just can't seem to finish them. On top of that, all I want to do is to start a new project, even before the socks are done! How stupid is that?"

Ah, Nicholas. Welcome to the wonderful world of Multiple Knitting UFOs, where answering the question "What's on your needles?" at times becomes an exercise in self-revelation….not to mention self-deception, story-telling, creative project description, and oh, never MIND listening to me, just go read the comments from Monday's post on counting your UFOs. You people are hilarious!

So let's talk a bit about WHY a project becomes a UFO. Obviously, I'm not referring to the current work-in-progress, even though technically, that too is a UFO. I'm referring to all the projects that sit in our workbaskets and closets and knitting bags, languishing in various stages of "done-ness." I set aside the one project that I am actively, truly working on, and then went through the 18 "real" UFOs, putting them in mental piles, asking myself this one question: What stopped me from finishing this?

My oldest UFO: 13-yr-old Lace Arrow Socks

Here's the reasons I came up with:

— 4 projects required more concentration and quiet time than I have had recently;

— 3 projects were at stages where endless stockinette or seed stitch was required, and the repetition was boring me;

— 6 projects were "stuck" on some technical detail or design problem;

— 2 projects were the victims of the dreaded Second Sock Syndrome;

— 2 projects were ones I just plain did not care for any longer;

— 1 project I liked, but I didn't LOVE it and I didn't NEED it (so I have low motivation to finish a long project).

As I watched the responses to the Count Your UFOs Poll come in (sorry, voting is now closed!), I wondered what your reasons for leaving a project unfinished were. So, based on my own categories above, I created a second poll (two in one week! whoo!):

Today's poll: Why Do Your UFOs Become UFOs? (voting is now closed here as well!)

I'm really interested to see what you all say!

Friday, we'll talk about the results of the polls (or the early results, anyway!).

More Questions And Answers From The Comments

From Diane: If a pattern just says gauge is 4 stitches per inch, does that mean in stockinette? Garter stitch? In the pattern? Some will specify, but a lot that I've seen don't.

Sandi: The "industry standard" is gauge swatches in stockinette, so that's a very safe guess in a situation where it does not say otherwise.


From Abby (and others!): Speaking of gauge and swatching, is the recommendation for the William Street socks correct? Would 12 stitches over 2 inches be more doable?

Sandi: All of you who wrote in asking this are correct: The gauge was incorrect in the PDF and on the pattern detail page. The CORRECT gauge is 12 sts and 18 rows = 2". We've corrected PDF and the pattern page accordingly.


From Melissa (and others!): Do knitting patterns yarn requirements take into account swatching? If so, how much do they figure you'll use?

Sandi: I can't speak for non-Interweave patterns, of course, but our tech editors here actually weigh the sample garment to figure out how much yarn is used for the actual knitted item. Once they have the yarn requirements calculated for each size, they add a small percentage to allow for swatching and individual variations. So, yes: An Interweave pattern usually includes a little extra yardage in the yarn requirements to allow for swatching. If the yardage is tight, the pattern notes will usually say so.


Amy H. (and her local knitting group, hello, D.C. knitters!) had some further enlightening comments on the subject of using a different needle size in each hand to achieve different gauge effects. Amy says: "In my experience, the needle in your RIGHT hand determines gauge, so if you have a larger needle in the right hand and a smaller one in the left, you would still get a consistent gauge. (This can be a good technique for "sticky" yarns that are hard to slide off the needles). But if you were switching your right-hand needle to be larger on one row and smaller on another, you might get an average row gauge that's in between the two needles, but you'd have inconsistent looking rows. Now, where switching right-hand needles might come in handy would be if you usually "row out," i.e. you purl loosely, so your purl rows are already bigger than your knit rows. If that's the case, it might be useful to go down a needle size in you right hand on the purl rows."

Basket o' Blue UFOs

Sandi: Amy, that last sentence is going to help a lot of knitters—thanks!


From Mary: Sandi, I loved the picture of your UFOs. But tell me, is blue your favorite color or is this just a picture of the blue UFOs?

Sandi: Purple is my favorite color. I don't have a big enough basket for the purple ones…

Sandi Wiseheart is the editor of Knitting Daily.

What's on Sandi's needles? Apparently, a great deal more than I thought was on my needles! I am proud to report that as of Monday night, I now have ONE LESS UFO! I finished one of the pairs of socks (not the fancy lace ones shown above, the easier ones). So now I am down to 18 UFOs! Hooray!

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