when your knitting stalls out ...

As I move near the finish line on a sweater that has been two years in the making (but could've been finished sooo much sooner) it's got me thinking about my ancient UFOs (knitting speak for "unfinished objects") and why they stalled out. I've pondered this idea before … when I realized that I knit striped projects soooo much faster than non-striped projects. I've come to realize that some projects by design have more natural momentum than others (e.g. striped projects). In those cases, the pattern has enough variety or is broken into sections that clearly show my progress or are otherwise just fun, addictive knits. Other times the project has momentum based on progress towards completion--the project reaches what I call the "tipping point" where you are sooo close to finishing that your motivation surges and you find yourself racing to the finish line. If the project hasn't reached the tipping point or isn't naturally fun/addictive, then the smallest little thing can get the project to stall out and be stuck in hibernation.

Right now I have three different sweater projects stuck in hibernation, two dating back to early 2017. One of the three is my yellow and raspberry striped sweater pictured above.  Luckily, it's back into the "tipping point" stage and should easily be finished this month. Sometimes stalling out on a project is perplexing even to myself. This one has stripes, which I find fun and addicting to knit. It's a pattern I've made before, so I'm not anxious about fit or whether it will "turn out." So why in the world would I stop working on a project like this one?
If I think back to all the times this has happened, some patterns emerge:
  • Something didn't turn out the way I hoped and my frustration sucked the joy from the project.
  • I'm worried I'm going to run out of yarn. 
  • I feel uncertain about my color choices and am questioning myself and whether I like how the project is looking.
  • I'm in a slow section of the project and just got bored. AND something else needed to get done and I got distracted and never returned to the project.
  • No external deadlines/commitments forcing me to push through my resistance.

And in this case, it was my fear of running out of yarn and my uncertainty over my sleeve color choices that completely killed my momentum on this project. Initially I thought a contrasting, yellows-only sleeve would be fun to pair with the stripes. But I was uncertain how I wanted to combine a variegated yellow and a solid yellow yarn. I knew I didn't have enough variegated to knit the sleeves entirely in it like I wanted to. When I picked this project back up this month, I quickly knit one sleeve and realized my fears of running out of yarn were unfounded. But then I just didn't like how it turned out. And this was after knitting two whole sleeves. Oy vey. So I knit my third sleeve this morning, making it striped. And just like the saying--the third time really was the charm. So I'll knit my fourth sleeve for this sweater this weekend and start finishing seams. 

What makes your projects stall out and get stuck in hibernation?

2019 year in review

I don't care if it's February, I'm keeping up with my tradition of reviewing "what I made last year." Oy vey. In my defense, December was filled with travel and hosting family. January was filled with illness. Now I'm feeling back to my normal self and I'm chomping at the bit to get making. Looking at the numbers, 2019 was a big jump back up in individual project numbers. But that included 21 hats and 10 ornaments, so those numbers are a bit inflated--which you can see in the measly 10,453 yards of yarn crafted in those 52 finished projects. Whereas 2018 was the year of the sweater, 2019 was the year of the shawl. I have never made more shawls in my life--seven shawls, four cowls, and four woven scarves. That's a lot of "neck things." 2019 was also the year I returned to making a significant contribution to my knitting guild's annual charity project--hats for homeless children in our local school district. It felt good to contribute 20 hats to that project, and it gave me some good crocheting practice. In 2019 I returned to colorwork knitting, which is something I truly love but somehow quit doing--my records show the last time I did stranded colorwork was in 2017 and before that 2014. Yikes.

A table tabulating the number of projects completed annually. 52 in 2019; 34 in 2018; 53 in 2017

10,453 yards in 2019; 14,215 yards in 2018; 11,252 yards in 2017; 23,548 yards in 2016; 26,425 yards in 2015; 11,282 yards in 2014
*2015 was the year I made three large blankets with yarn held double-stranded.

Collage of projects completed in January through March 2019
January - March 2019: 
one cowl, two woven scarves, one shawl, and one colorwork mitten project

Collage of projects completed in April through June 2019
April - June 2019:
This montage is deceptive--it creates the illusion that spring/early summer was my most productive season, but in fact December was. Simple crochet edgings on four fleece blankets, three more shawls, two cowls, and two more woven scarves.

Collage of projects completed in July through September 2019
July - September 2019:
Three shawls and one cowl. In hindsight I would have expected more output during this time, but the beginning of the school year is hectic and in 2019 was filled with weekend activities.

Collage of projects completed in October through December 2019
October - December 2019:
My most productive part of the year, with 10 ornaments and 21 hats finished. Also when I finished the project I'm most proud of last year--stranded colorwork mittens for my mom.

Now for the fun part … looking back at those crafting resolutions I made back in January 2019. This is going to be a bit painful.
  • Goal #1: Reduce, reduce, reduce my stash. My stash of yarn, my stash of fabric, my stash of crafting kits! RESULTS: Since I completely failed at Goal #2, not much progress here unfortunately. I did make a lot of things, but I also bought additional supplies to make those things.
  • Goal #2: String together at least six months of zero yarn purchases. RESULTS: Big fat nope!
  • Goal #3: Continue to knit sweaters for myself! Shooting for nine adult sweaters this year. I've already picked nine patterns that are at the top of my list! RESULTS: Not a single sweater sadly. Shawls took over!
  • Goal #4: Finish at least two quilts. RESULTS: WIN! I actually did this! I made two cute baby quilts: a very hungry caterpillar quilt and a forest creatures/lumberjack quilt. I made a TON of quilted finch bucket bags in 2019.
  • Goal #5: Expand my weaving skills. Try to make a wearable garment/vest! RESULTS: Nope. Kept on making scarves, lol!
  • Goal #6: Finish another big needlepoint project! RESULTS: Nope.
  • Goal #7: Crochet a sweater. RESULTS: Nope.
  • Goal #8: Crochet a toy. RESULTS: Nope.
  • Goal #9: Practice overdying yarn! (changing a yarn's color by dying it) RESULTS: Nope.
  • Goal #10: Blog more frequently and consistently. RESULTS: Nope.

What are my crafting goals for 2020?
  • Goal #1: Revive my love of knitting from my stash and "stashing down." I've already joined some Ravelry challenges and groups that are already doing this. 
  • Goal #2: The ratio of yarn out of stash to yarn purchases by the end of the year should be 3:1, as in yardage out will be three times more than yardage in. I'm not going to make any grand proclamations of not buying yarn this year, but I am determined to make a big dent in my stash this year. I've never tried using a ratio for this type of goal before, so this is an experiment. I've been "cold sheeping" (aka zero yarn purchases) since December now, which is what really helps.
  • Goal #3: Use more of my old stash. Enough said!
  • Goal #4: Weave more. Make a woven garment.
  • Goal #5: Learn something new. (like brioche or stacked stitches or crocheting toys)
  • Goal #6: Six sweaters this year. Ideally? My original #makenine from 2019, but we'll start small.
  • Goal #7: Learn something new in quilting/sewing. Quilting as you go, paper piecing.
  • Goal #8: Finish lingering things that are 99% done.
Looking forward to another productive and creative year! It's fun to look back at how my skills and design taste has evolved over the years. 

sunday's stitches, vol. 1 (2020 edition)

The trouble with being a multiple-craft-mode type person is that sometimes it's hard to stay present in all your crafts. Even though you love them and they bring you joy. That's been my struggle with my stitching crafts (cross-point, needlepoint, embroidery). They were my original craft. I still remember working on my first projects while riding in my Dad's truck because I was hooked and couldn't stop working on them (I even took them with me while camping and wood-cutting!). I still remember the feeling of entering those projects in the state fair each fall (looking up the categories of events in the catalogue, lining up to submit our entries, the combination of excitement and anxiety and trepidation of actually putting my creations out in the world for outsider judgment). I still remember working on them while working as a lifeguard in high school when I would rotate to the cash register and the joy of talking to our patrons about what I was currently working on (and their joy at seeing a young person cross-stitching).

But at some point, knitting caught my eye and full attention. And stitching crafts took a back seat. I went years without making a cross-stitch or needlepoint project. And then I realized how much I missed it. So I started purchasing kits again. But my "eyes are always bigger than my stomach" as they say when it comes to acquiring crafting project materials (ahem...) and since I have local friends that knit I had more a consistent knitting focus on a regular basis. Then in 2013 I made my first Sunday's stitches post. And suddenly my needlepoint was re-energized again (I still haven't finished the backstitch and embroidery to finish that horse project though … this year!).

But I was still stuck in unfinished project land. I had never finished a pillow-sized project before, and I think it just seemed unreachable. I had a cycle of getting excited, starting, getting distracted, then making the project dormant, then picking it back up out of guilt years later, then getting overwhelmed again. The first time I broke that cycle was when I finished a modern needlepoint pillow in 2018. What was the difference? I made that project the focus of my very-first 100 Day Project on Instagram. I didn't even hit a full 100 days, in fact, I only made it to 60. But that was enough to get me so close that I was able to finish later that year. And in a moment of wisdom, I forced myself to sew the project into a pillow immediately upon finishing instead of letting it wait in limbo-land forever.

So it was not without a little trepidation that I started this Christmas needlepoint project back on December 22. I told myself, "I'll start posting each week again, that worked before." And then I suddenly found myself in-between knitting projects, with no other projects or crafts to distract me. This needlepoint project was the relaxing, soothing balm I found myself pulled to over and over during the holiday break. My first strategy was to start with the edges, since they are nice little "do-able" rectangles and not too Christmas-y. I'd save the Santa for last, as I was assuming this project would take me until next December to finish. But then I found myself wanting to stitch in low-light, and I went ahead and started the light blue background area since it was easy to see and uncomplicated. I remembered how much large sections of one color stall me out, since they are boring. I figured I'd do a little bit in between working on the edges, so I didn't have a huge chunk to finish at the end. Before I knew it, I had caught up to where I was on the edging border. And then I decided I didn't want to wait to make the Santa--in fact, it would be smarter to do the Santa at the beginning when I'm motivated (since it's a harder section). Now I'm thinking I should leave the border for last, since it's small and fun and will be quick to finish right when I need a little push.

But honestly with how fast and fun this one is, I don't think I'll need a little push. I am merrily zipping along! And I'm keeping notes--this may be my magical combination for successful needlepoint finishes. Starting with the "boring" and "hard" things first, leaving the fast and fun things for last.

2021 year in review

  Who would have thought that the second year of a pandemic would be worst than the first, in terms of crafting mojo? Not I. But this chart ...